1.3.1 Is Addiction Really a Disease?

Topic Progress:

The idea that addiction is a genuine medical disease is a controversial one. Nevertheless, two of the world’s largest medical bodies researching addiction – The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – and The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) – both define it in this way. While they use slightly different terminology they are saying approximately the same thing.

According to NIDA;

Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. It is considered a brain disorder, because it involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control. Those changes may last a long time after a person has stopped taking drugs.”1

And according ASAM;

Addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences. Prevention efforts and treatment approaches for addiction are generally as successful as those for other chronic diseases.”2

One definition (NIDA’s) uses the word ‘disorder’, and the other (ASAM’s) uses the word ‘disease’. But these terms are virtually interchangeable.