14 Nov Bonus YSS: Debate it: Is addiction a disease?
A growing controversy (heated discussion) exists as to whether or not addiction is a disease. Government agencies cited in these sub posts refer to addiction as a disease, so we use that viewpoint. But, we would be remiss (meaning neglectful or not thorough) if we didn’t share with you the ongoing debate: Is addiction a disease?
Let’s break it down.
The first place the debate centers around is the brain. All those changes that drugs cause on the brain significantly change it so that the person becomes a slave to the drugs. That makes some people feel addiction is a disease. For instance, Alzheimer’s is a disease with significant brain changes highly affecting the person. Likewise ALS is caused by brain changes.
However, ADHD and many developmental disorders represent brain changes that highly affect a person, but those are not diseases, they are seen as disorders. This makes some people believe that addiction need not be classified as a disease.
The second place the debate centers on is choice. Initially, using drugs (or alcohol or cigarettes) is a choice and therefore avoidable, and therefore not a disease. Certainly, people with cancer never had the CHOICE to avoid developing it.
Yes, the counter argument to that is that other diseases do often stem from choices. For instance, Emphysema is a disease and it is is entirely caused by smoking, initially a choice. Likewise, Type II diabetes is a disease and it can be avoided with healthy eating habits (see nutrition II), your eating habits are your choice. Even heart disease can often be avoided with healthy eating and exercise habits.
Finally, some people argue that addiction is a crisis, not a disease. It’s a crisis of humanity, like child abuse, unemployment, obesity, loneliness, and unplanned pregnancies. They are inflictions of unfortunate circumstances changing the way people live their lives. But people don’t call those problems diseases. Those issues are handled without the disease label.
Why is the disease label necessary? Is it helpful or hurtful? Yes, another debate within a debate….Some people think that by calling addiction a disease then people who suffer from it can get treatment (which can be paid for by insurance). When diagnosed with a disease, they can get time away from school or work to manage it. Also, less of a stigma exists when it’s a disease.
However, some people believe that people with addiction are hiding behind a disease label. Labeled as a disease, some people believe that gives an addict an excuse to say, “Hey there’s nothing I can do. This is not my fault” and therefore not really try to change their behaviors. People with this view generally view addiction as a weakness and something for which people with addictions need to take responsibility. They believe the “disease” label gives people with addictions an excuse NOT to try to overcome their addictions… for example, you wouldn’t tell a cancer patient to take responsibility for having cancer.
What do you think?
Regardless where you stand, please remember that a person with is addiction is a person who is suffering and as such, needs help, support and the respect that we give each and every human being.
Consider this; the term disease is broken down to dis-ease. Is the person not at ease with something? Might knowing what that something is be helpful for recovery? Ahhh… the debate goes on. What do you think? Please share with your friends and family. And with us!