Is It Time We Stopped Calling Addiction A 'Disease'?

The brain's role in addiction changes things.

woman covered in green leaves getty

Is addiction a disease? Most people think, "yes."

The idea has become ingrained in the minds of media, courts, treatment facilities, and addicts. It's also a stigma.

A debatable concept is that if you are an alcoholic or drug addict, you are ill.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as "a chronic, relapsing brain disease." And thus, this definition has been adopted by medical researchers and policymakers worldwide.


RELATED: Getting Sober: Why Overcoming Addiction On Your Own Is Totally Possible

So, is addiction a disease?

Addiction does not meet the criteria specified for a core disease entity — it's self-acquired. It may be explained as a maladaptive response to an underlying condition.

For example, depression or a vague inability to cope with the world.

Carl Erik Fisher, a psychiatrist and author of "The Urge: A History of Addiction" has himself dealt with addiction and is in favor that stigmatizing the term addiction with the disease is misleading.

He explains that disparaging addiction by categorizing it as a disease takes away the focus from forces of racism and several other forms of oppression that accompany addiction.


Addiction and disease

The term "disease" was introduced in association with "addiction" to open doors for hospitals to aid the addicts in receiving medical attention. People still struggle to get fundamental medical treatment, insurance benefits, and access to care.

There's good reason to speculate whether addiction is actually a disease. If yes, one must formulate definitive causes, symptoms, treatment protocols, and the likely time required to cure it completely.

It's astonishing how addiction can be overcome by changing perspectives, environment, mindfulness, or increasing willpower as opposed to other ailments such as typhoid, cancer, and diabetes.

People today face numerous issues such as domestic abuse, poverty, obesity, unemployment, social isolation, but these problems need not be termed as a "disease" to find solutions.


Instead of medical intervention, it's better to deal with them by providing social and psychological support, education, employment opportunities, nutritional consults, etc.

RELATED: The Hidden Truth About Addiction That Mental Health Professionals Won't Tell You

Reducing the stigma

Despite the frustration felt when confronted with the depredation of addiction, it's evident that life circumstances can dictate internal suffering and vexation.

Social norms seem to be pushing forward rather than regressing as people have become outspoken about their struggles on social media.

Also, people have now recognized addiction as an aftermath of social inferiority rather than individual flaws. Yet, the disease infamy locates the issue of addiction in the individual.


It's unjust to consider addiction as a medical diagnosis. It does no good to the sufferer. Imagine being labeled as a cancer survivor post-recovery. It only reminds of the pain and misery one has sailed through.

Numerous addicts recoil at the notion that they have a life-long disease. Addicts who are determined and successful in galvanizing their willpower and transforming their habits, their personal goals, and the capacity for self-discipline.

Once an addict recovers, it can feel despicable to be stigmatized as chronically ill.

Recovered addicts would want to feel that they have transformed their lives and have become better people.

What can be done next?

Astounding solidarity has arisen between certain addicts and the specialists responsible for treating them. These are the addicts who demand that they have a disease, and any endeavors to remove that definition are hurting them.


Former addicts see their concerns in an altogether different light. For them, the disease label is devastating and an additional cross to bear.

Identifying addiction as a disease has had its advantages.

The introduction of new medicines has served to be beneficial to a subgroup of addicts. Also, the disease label keeps on improving the conceptualization of the chaotic issue, making it easier to contemplate and resolute.


Comprehending the brain’s role in addiction can destroy the stigma surrounding the illness — and motivate the addicts to seek help.

Medicalizing addiction has not shown any benefits for the addicts per se. The need for treating people with addictions is a social conundrum that requires social interventions.

RELATED: My Alcohol Addiction Nearly Paralyzed Me At 24 Years Old

Sidhharrth S. Kumaar is the Founder of NumroVani and a registered pharmacist turned Astro Numerologist. For more information, visit his website.