5 reasons why an addiction is not a disease


5 reasons why an addiction is not a disease

You may not know this but more than half of the world see addiction as a disease. The idea has become entrenched in our news media, our treatment facilities, and in the hearts and minds of addicts themselves. It’s a potent concept.

“I truly believe no treatment will work on a person with an addiction if the patient hasn’t fully given themselves over to the fact that they have a disease that does not heal itself.”

This were the words of Margaret F.’s words which captured a core belief of the traditional type of treatment program she attended. Leading professional organizations – including the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, World Health Organization, and American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) – subscribe to the notion that alcohol and other drug addictions are diseases.

According to Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease,” and this definition has also been adopted by medical researchers and policy makers everywhere.

Great minds such as Oprah Winfrey, Russell Brand and Joe Biden agree: the then-senator even introduced a bill in 2007 called the “Recognizing Addiction as a Disease Act.” (It never came up for a vote.). The disease theory has powerful forces behind it, has money behind it. Perhaps most important, it has a comforting thought behind it.
So after our team had done their research we have come up with a list of five reasons why this concept of an addiction being a disease is not true.

1.  Addiction is self-acquired and is not transmissible, contagious, autoimmune, hereditary, degenerative or traumatic. Treatment consists of little more than stopping a given behavior. True diseases worsen if left untreated.

 A patient with cancer is not cured if locked in a cell, whereas an alcoholic is automatically cured. No access to alcohol means no alcoholism. A person with schizophrenia will not remit if secluded. Sepsis will spread and Parkinson disease will worsen if left untreated.

2. The brain of an addicted person changes over a period of time but it is normal. And the changes in the brain that occur because of addiction are not irreversible. We’ve been talking about neuroplasticity for decades. That is, the brain keeps on changing – due to changes in experience, self-motivated changes in behavior, as a result of practice, being in a different environment.

Saying addiction is a disease suggests that the brain can no longer change…that it’s an end state. But no, it’s not end state.

3. In terms of brain change, you could say that neuroplasticity has a dark side. But rather than a disease, addiction is a habit that grows and perpetuates itself relatively quickly when we repeatedly pursue the same highly attractive goal. 

This results in new pathways being built in the brain, which is always the case with learning: new pathways are formed and older pathways are pruned or eradicated.

4. Cancer does not have a fixed rehabilitation. Addiction requires a specific, timed rehabilitation program. Cancer requires routine screenings and a specific medical treatment.

It is clear the exact moment that a disease, like cancer, has begun. The start of addiction, on the other hand, cannot be pinpointed. An addict can look back to the time they started experimenting with and abusing drugs. However, the addiction itself cannot be pinpointed, cancer cells can be.

Addiction is overcome through hard work and persistence in a treatment program and/or group therapy. Cancer cannot, it requires intensive medical treatment and continued therapy.

5. Diseases do not provide any ‘good’ sensations. Drugs and alcohol side effect is that of euphoria and other positive sensations. Cancer, for example, does not yield such sensations; it causes serious pain.

Using and abusing drugs loosens a person up, to points where they ‘can’ have fun or be the ‘life of the party’. Everyone knows that person or has a friend who gets ‘fun’ after a few drinks. Cancer does not make you the life of the party.

You do not get a disease, like cancer, when someone tells you to try it. Addiction starts with a willingness to try something.
Cancer is physically painful, addiction is not. The withdrawal from abusing drugs can be painful, but not the addiction itself.


  1. Way to just make stuff up.

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