There has been some debate throughout the recent few decades as to whether or addiction is actually a disease. Due to the genetic factors at play, which constitute nearly 50% of the risk factors that contribute to addiction, as well as the environmental and behavioral factors, addiction is categorized as a disease by the American Medical Association as well as the American Society of Addiction Medicine. To put addiction in the context of other diseases, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are also diseases that are characterized by environmental, behavioral, and biological factors. So why does this matter?
The conversation of whether addiction is a disease or not isn’t necessarily the real issue, but rather, how this designation of addiction as a disease can either positively or negatively affect the sufferers who are trying to recover. First, let’s take a look at how this designation may help those in early recovery. If there was any question on the part of the suffering individual that their addiction was a consequence of a lack of self-control or a moral failing, the disease model of addiction provides solace in the fact that both of these assumptions about the causes of addiction are categorically untrue. This is an important fact to realize because the disease model can help to alleviate some of the overwhelming guilt and shame that is experienced in early recovery. If we can begin to see it as we might if we had cancer, we can use this perspective as a way to motivate us to take any and all necessary actions in order to prevent it our disease from perpetuating itself.
The flip side of this coin with regards to the disease model of addiction is the potential for people to abuse the fact that it is considered a disease and use this fact as an excuse to continue engaging in maladaptive and addictive behaviors. Again, it is appropriate to find comfort in the fact that we have the strength and power within us to actually make our disease submit to our truest innermost selves and to not blame ourselves for addiction as a moral failing. What is not healthy, productive, or honest is when we use our “disease” as a justification for continued relapses and ongoing depression. Just as cancer cells continue to grow and perpetuate without proper interventions, so will our disease of addiction and we cannot afford to take a back seat lest we risk being overtaken entirely by the disease.
Tree House Recovery of Portland, Oregon is a men’s addiction treatment center that teaches our clients how to roll with life’s punches and use the tools they’ve learned throughout the treatment process to stay on top of anything life throws at them. Call (503) 850-2474 to see how we can help you today.