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The Argument Against Addiction as a Disease

Until recently, it was commonly believed that addiction was an issue of willpower: those who were morally strong could stop drinking and abusing drugs and those who weren’t were shunned. Over the years, however, more and more research has demonstrated the changes that occur in the brain and how addiction has the characteristics of a chronic disorder rather than a moral failing. Very few – especially those in the medical and psychotherapeutic fields – view addiction as anything other than a physical health issue with psychological components.

The Argument Against Addiction as a Disease

There is, however, an ongoing argument against drug addiction as a disease. Many refuse to believe the scientific evidence that more is at work than an inability to control oneself. They point out that:

  • Drug addiction is not contagious. You don’t “catch it” accidentally.
  • There’s no known way to develop drug addiction or alcoholism other than to drink or abuse drugs, which is clearly a choice, at least initially.
  • Once it’s clear that drug and alcohol abuse has negative consequences, the patient still continues to drink and abuse drugs.

Most argue that those diagnosed with other diseases would stop the causative behavior if that were the way to treat the issue. Why can’t those addicted to drugs and alcohol do the same?

The Argument for Addiction as a Disease

Yes, it’s true that you can stand next to an addict or alcohol and not “catch” the disease. The same is true for the ability to “catch” HIV or cancer, and those are definitely both diseases, too. And yes, it is a choice to initially pick up a beer or smoke a joint or try any drug and that this action can ultimately lead to an addiction. But so too can it be said that skin cancer starts with choosing to be out in the sun without sunscreen – but few would say that those who are living with skin cancer have a moral issue or a problem with will power.

Additionally, there are a number of studies that track the marked changes in brain chemicals and structure that occur when drugs are abused for a long period of time. Clearly, a patient undergoes physical and psychological changes as a result of drug abuse and addiction. These changes make it even more difficult to control the impulses related to the problem.

What Do You Think?

Is drug and alcohol addiction a disease or a choice? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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