Monday, April 28, 2014

Is addiction a disease?

I am not asking for myself.....I have a friend who is writing a paper for a class and I asked her if she would be interested in hearing what all of you have to say.

Personally, I have gone back and forth on this one. I think its just semantics and maybe it really doesn't even matter. My girl is where she is for whatever reasons and I just want her to be healthy and happy and there is nothing I can do about making that happen. I do think there is an initial element of choice involved, but I do think that most "addicts" quickly become very sick. There are lots of young people who use drugs and alcohol "recreationally" and they don't become like our kids here that we write about. I do believe that drug and alcohol use is most definitely (in my opinion) a symptom of something else. 

If it is a disease is it a mental health illness? Is it a physical illness? A spiritual illness? A brain condition?

 My girl doesn't believe its a disease. She believes that people can be genetically pre-disposed to becoming addicted once they begin to drink or use. She has said, "I didn't start off sick. I was depressed, but not delusional. I chose to self medicate my depression and it quickly got out of control (thus the genetic pre-disposition to addiction) and yes, NOW I am a sick human being."

I have another friend who is very invested in the idea of addiction being a disease. I think as a mom, its one thing to think that of our children as sick individuals, its another to think that they hold some responsibility for their sickness.

So what do you all think?


Dad and Mom said...

Learning in life does not stop unless you choose for it to stop. It took me a long time to begin to understand what my son was experiencing.

For me I thought he was using because he liked it and maybe a little bit to just piss me off.

I saw all the literature, heard all the counselors but I couldn't grasp the disease element. He was doing this due to a weakness of character.

Finally when I gave up fighting the drugs and my son, I was able to sit down and look at what was happening.

Understanding what was happening helped me with accepting what was happening. Brain scans show there is a physiological changes in the brain with addiction. When I began seeing and understanding that changes do indeed take place in the body I began to accept the disease element.

How and why would anything give themselves a disease such as addiction, when it's so easy to avoid? They don't have a disease before using?

I would not deny a person that smoked all their life and was diagnosed with lung cancer that they had a disease. I would not deny an overweight person with an addiction to donuts, candy and ice cream the disease of diabetes if they are taking insulin shots each day.

Why would a person that uses drugs that results in drug addiction be a moral issue and simply a choice by a person with low moral character?

Accepting the disease model enabled me to accept that I wasn't going to force or coerce the addiction out of my son. I had to change my attitude and methodology for treating my own dependence on holding to my misplaced beliefs.

Is addiction a disease? What we believe it to be matters only to ourselves and how we accept our loved ones distress. For me I do now understand it to be a disease.

So little is known about metal illness it is easy for society to see it as a moral issue. There is so much we DON'T know about the brain and genetics. Maybe one day the question can be answered so that we don't have to experience the horrors to understand the effects.

Pam said...

For what it's worth, IMHO, I do believe that addiction is a multi faceted mental condition/disease. The disease is progressive and therefore an individual's decision to make healthy choices regarding living life with their disease brings on the personal responsibility and choice. I do not pretend to have all the answers here, I do believe that this condition needs to have more research done in order to understand how outside influences can effect a person’s decisions and rationalization. I watched a program on Schizophrenic children who have outward replaces that are uncontrollable with their mental disease. This has been the closest thing that I can relate to my son and his struggle with his disease. I truly do not believe that he wants to ever relapse, but he cannot seem to control it. He cannot seem to make the healthy decisions that he knows he needs to make. He told me just last night, that he “can barely take care of himself.” So he knows and understands what he is doing; he just can’t seem at times to help himself. He lives his life one day at a time, and with every new day right now he has hope. This hope is the only thing that is saving my son's life right now, so I support his hope that tomorrow will be better! Miracles happen every minute of everyday, today might be his day!

mary christine said...

I can't speak to addiction, but I believe that alcoholism is a disease. We just react entirely differently than others when we drink.

Hattie Heaton said...

I would say yes. I'm not a scientist but I've seen a lot of credible folks, like Gabor Mate, MD who argue the validity of the disease definition. For the sake of healing, I would argue that if we offer the compassion that we would give to any other person with a disease (dis-EASE) instead of shame that is often offered to criminals, we would have a lot better outcomes. I don't think society will change it's perception of addicts or alcoholics unless it is framed in the view of disease.

Annette said...

Oh Pam what an excellent and thought provoking answer. Your son sounds like my girl. I think their sobriety is a full time job for them. Especially in the beginning. I have also thought of myself....Ha! Big surprise! lol Because I never drank, so I never triggered those neurotransmitters to want or crave more of any substance. The odds are, with my family history, that I would have been an alcoholic and I see the tendencies play themselves out in other areas of my life...I see the I have wondered if my brain has the disease of addiction but its dormant or not as active or something. I didn't feed it so it hasn't grown to take over my life....but it sure could have if I hadn't been so afraid of it. Obviously there is NO scientific basis for what I am saying....just my own very elementary thoughts about it.

Syd said...

I believe that alcoholism is a disease and a progressive one. I can have a glass of wine or a beer and not have to have more, whereas an alcoholic will not quit until drunk. So I do believe that the brain chemistry is different for alcoholics versus us normies. And the stories repeated over and over in the rooms of AA indicate so many similarities that one can't help but see that it has to be a disease. I also think that that is a genetic component which isn't understood in terms of mode of inheritance. And there are certainly underlying disorders that can kick off the drinking and drugging, such as ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, etc. It is a complex problem. I hope that more will be understood in time.

Lolly said...

"If it is a disease is it a mental health illness? Is it a physical illness? A spiritual illness? A brain condition?" Can I say Yes to all of them? What do you suppose it means if I see all of the above in my qualifier? Does that mean it is or isn't a disease? It's so frustrating! Sometimes I think he chooses to be this way...but who would ever choose to be this way?!?

Tori said...

On any given day I can change my mind on this one. I see both sides but I also see on a daily basis how my son struggles with this.

He will get mad and say he hates that he has this disease - then he will at times say that he "got" this from his Grandfather on his Father's side who was a alcoholic that lost both of his legs and still didn't quit drinking. All four of his Uncles are addicts and only one is sober and he is 60 something.

The ONLY ONE who never had a problem is B's Father...but his Father never tried a drug or even a sip of alcohol so who knows if he did try would he be like them?

B also has said that it isn't about wanting to get high as much as it is wanting to feel normal. When he uses he feels normal when he isn't using he struggles and that is where the constant relapses come in.

Our addicts were kids with dreams....they don't dream about growing up to be an addict.

I have been reading a book lately and it speaks of addiction as a disease. The more I read it the more I believe it is.

Birdie said...

Oh, I most definately think it is a disease.

1. It can't be controlled without intervention.

2. It is progressive.

3. If you don't receive treatment it will eventually kill you.

The same goes for all diseases.

Sober Life said...

Hi, I love this topic and of course all of us have our own view on this subject. However, JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, in 1992 had published a definition of alcoholism as a disease, as per the decision made by National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Here is the article link that explains why.