Should Addiction Be Treated as a Disease?

Should Addiction Be Treated as a Disease?

Most people who claim addiction is not a disease support their opinion with the fact that all addicts make the initial choice to use a substance, illustrating their free will and conscious choice. However, the way their brain responds to the substance is completely out of the control of the person—those addicted are struggling to control their use.

Addicts may end up craving a substance despite the harmful consequences so that they can feel “normal.” Addiction can cause an individual to ultimately stop caring about their well-being, losing interest in normal life activities. After heavy use, taking the drug an addict is addicted to can prevent them from having dangerous seizures and suffering through withdrawal symptoms.

The consequences of untreated addiction can often include other physical and mental health disorders that require medical attention. Without appropriate treatment and care, addiction can become increasingly more severe, disabling, and even life threatening. A simple choice to take a drug can lead to a complete loss of the individual’s control of their behavior. Once the brain is altered by addiction, their free will and conscious choice is gone.

Choice does not determine whether something is a disease, a disease is what happens in the body as a result of those choices. For instance, high levels of sun exposure is associated with skin cancer. The individual had the choice to irresponsibly be in the sun without appropriate protection. That individual’s choice—composed of free will—can very much lead to cancer, a disease. This same principle should be applied to drug and alcohol addiction.

In addition, like diabetes, addiction can be the result of genetic factors. These factors account for about half of the likelihood that an individual will develop addiction. Just as mental illnesses like depression are increasingly more common in people with a familial history of these disorders, genes passed down can influence predispositions toward alcohol abuse and addiction.

Fundamentally, addiction changes how the brain responds to rewards, stress, and self-control. These changes are long-term and can persevere even after the individual has stopped abusing the drug. Thus, addiction should definitely be treated as a disease—addicts should receive help and treatment.