Is Addiction a Disease?
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is indeed a disease. The disease is chronic, meaning it's not an acute illness that a person can immediately "beat" and then put behind himself. Addictions, which range from alcoholism to opiate addiction to gambling, involve compulsive use of substances or behaviors that tend to continue despite harmful consequences. Individuals may continue gambling despite their spouses leaving them and losing their jobs. An individual struggling with alcoholism may continue to drink despite being told his liver is failing. And a person may continue to buy drugs even as he empties his bank account. Addiction is a very real disease of the brain, the result of interactions between the brain and an individual's genetics, his environment and his personal life experiences. Because of the complexity of this illness, addiction requires an integrative approach, including therapy, medication management, and major lifestyle changes.