Addiction is a Disease
If we are to define addiction as a disease, we must first define disease. A disease is an interruption, cessation or disorder of bodily functions, system or organ illness, morbus, ill, sickness. A morbid entity characterized by at least two criteria: a recognizable agent, an identifiable group of signs or symptoms, or consistent anatomical alterations. (Stedman, 2012). In reviewing this we can see how addiction fits the mold of a disease. Addiction is considered a disorder or illness, and does cause bodily function harm, and also does have identifiable groups of signs and symptoms. Therefore, addiction meets the criteria of a disease based on the medical definition of a disease. The disease of addiction however, is much complicated that just a disease as it affects multiple aspects of the disorder, that will be reviewed.
Neurobiological Conditions of Addiction
One of the areas that research in addiction has significantly expanded, is how addiction biologically exists. With new scientific technology, research in this area has improved significantly in the last forty years. One of the areas that have been frequently studied is the role of brain imaging and PET scans within those who abuse drugs. Specifically, imaging findings have documented the differences in brain circuitry within reward, motivation, memory, and control (Volkow, 2003). Specifically, the MiRNA 206, is an gene expression that has been shown to increase alcoholism and impairment from alcoholism, within individuals (). The frontal cortex is an essentially area of focus within the biological spectrum of addiction because it is the area of the brain most affected by addiction, this is the area of the brain that controls our executive functioning.
The orbital frontal cortex has been shown to affect triggers and cravings within addicts and also can explain some of the reasons why those that have become dependent on substances will go through illness, social and family dysfunctions to use the substance. (Everitt, 2007). Many addicts suffer from relapse and have been scorned from society, while research has suggested that the very idea of relapse is related to not only the frontal cortex and the executive functioning within the brain but also, a dysfunction within the brain circuitry, especially during triggered moments (Lubman et al. 2004).
Dr. Kenneth Blum’s research within the confines of addiction have even suggested that addiction should be addressed as “Reward-Deficiency Syndrome” focusing on the the A1 allele of the dopamine receptor and finding genetic variations that can be utilized to predict addiction (Blum, 1996). Addiction itself, has chemical traits within the reward functioning of the brain that make a drug-user believe they need more to feel better, whereas those who do not possess addiction do not feel they need more, similar to those that have an issue with over eating, who believe they have to eat excessive amounts because they are feeling the reward functioning of the brain.
Genetics play a role in addiction as well, which Dr. Blum’s research points out as well. There are also specific vulnerabilities those that have family members who suffer from addiction have, specifically related to chromosomes 1,2,8,9,18 and 22 (Gizer, 2011). Chromosome 2 has been shown to have a major relation between substance dependence and the role this specific chromosome has on reward functioning within the brain as well as the way it responds to stress.
Among the factors of biological influence that effect addiction, it is also the drugs that can effect the biological impact of addiction, while binding to the dopamine receptors, drugs like opiates, bind to create a physical impact of not using substances which is commonly referred to as detoxification. Alcohol, Benzodiazapines, and Opiates, have factors that will bind to your dopamine receptors and have physical responses from the body when you do not use the substance, these include shaking, vomiting, seizures, and sometimes even death. These biomedical conditions put an additional risk factor on substance abuse that cause the changes within the individual.