It is our position that addiction is a disease. At Alta Centers Detox in Los Angeles, we see addiction all the time. We live through other individuals addictions on a daily basis. We see addiction as a disease, we share this with the World Health Organization, the American Psychiatric Association, The American Psychological Association, and The American Medical Association. I often get asked how addiction is a disease and I wanted to go through how addiction is a disease so loved ones seeking treatment can see how addiction is a disease and how addiction represents a disease.
The first and foremost part of this exploration is to define a disease. Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary defines disease as An interruption, cessation, or disorder of a body, system, or organ structure or function. A morbid entity ordinarily characterized by two or more of the following criteria: recognized etiologic agent(s), an identifiable group of signs and symptoms, or consistent anatomic alterations. So let’s review those.
Is addiction as we know it, an interruption, cessation or disorder of a body, system or organ structure or function….yes, We know addiction hijacks the brain by affecting the process related to the nerve cells in the nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex, the reward system of the brain becomes hijacked to change the way they communicate within the brain and essentially gives people an intense craving from liking something to wanting it and thus changes the process of pleasure within the brain and essentially makes an addict go after the drugs they want.
Now, does addiction have recognized etiologic agents? This is a medical term, so let’s break this down…are there causes or set of causes that show addiction? Or patterns of those who become addicted, or risk factors? Yes. While not all risk factors are the same there are identifiable etiologic agents that propel addictive behavior in those we see. Such etiologic agents are genetic predispositions, childhood trauma, and trauma in adulthood.
Next, we see identifiable groups of signs and symptoms…Is there identifiable groups of signs and symptoms within addiction? Yes, we can see that those who start to get addicted often start to diminish psychologically, withdraw from family, start to spend money on their addiction rather than their needs and cause psychological and physical harm to themselves. At Alta Centers, we are a drug detox facility. Everyone who comes to Alta Centers has an identifiable sign and symptom associated with their physical withdrawal and show that physical withdrawal symptoms are active signs and symptoms.
Consistent Anatomic Alterations
Studies that have shown brains of addicts consistently identified anatomic alterations. There is altered brain chemistry within the brain of addicts that rewire the reward functioning of the brain. These areas are shown with consistency that addictions have consistent anatomic alterations to the brain functioning and reward systems of the brain.
With this, we can see that addiction meets all the obtainable evidence of a disease as medical dictionaries suggest the definition of disease. We can see that it does meet the criteria for addiction and that addiction clearly shows that it is a brain disease.
Addiction often looks like choice, but science has proven that addiction has brain functioning changes. It does not matter when an addict becomes an addict, but that they now have a disease that functioning in the brain has changed.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine definition of addiction is that Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory , nd related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
Addiction is characterized by the inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.
If your loved one or yourself is suffering from addiction and questioning if addiction is a disease, I hope you find clarity that this is a disease. The important thing to note is that addiction is a disease that is able to go into remission. As a biological psychological and social disorder Alta Centers believes that addiction can be placed in remission by attacking the biological markers with detoxification from drugs and alcohol and dealing with the psychological issues within a group and individual counseling setting as well as replacing using friends with social changes in a community setting such as an outside support group.
Addiction is an illness and should be treated like an illness. We have to treat addicts and get them better in order to achieve their goals of sobriety and recovery. Alta Centers is a detox program located in Los Angeles, California and specializes in the physical withdrawal symptoms associated with addiction.