The Debate: Is Addiction Really a Disease?

When people talk about disease, thoughts often turn to physical problems such as the common cold, flu, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and other conditions that are based on physical symptoms. But, including addiction with the label of “disease” is a controversial topic in the medical industry. Many medical professionals are categorizing addiction as a brain disease, but others are arguing that addiction is a choice.

As more research and information comes to light about various types of addictions, it is becoming more common for healthcare professionals to recognize that addiction is a disease. In fact, many medical associations are now including addiction in their categorizations.

Combination of Factors that Cause Disease

Talk to a heart surgeon or oncologist, and these specialists will agree that heart disease or cancer are caused by a combination of factors. Not only do a person’s genetics impact the risk of the development of the disease, but environmental and behavioural aspects also play a role.

In the same way, addiction can be driven by the environment and a person’s choices, with the undeniable fact that biological factors can contribute to the development of an addiction. Most industry professionals will agree that addiction runs in families, which means that genetics seem to play a role in the development of this disease.

Changes to the Body and Brain

When a person is battling an addiction, changes happen to the functions of both the body and the brain. Additionally, these actions can lead to other mental and physical health disorders, often resulting in the need for medical attention. When addiction is left untreated, the symptoms worsen until the condition becomes disabling, severe, and even life threatening.

Even though the early decisions to use an addictive substance were based on the person’s conscious choice, the brain can be quickly changed in a way that impairs the person’s willpower to avoid the behaviour. As a result, addiction causes a loss of control and makes it hard for the person to lead a healthy, happy life.

The people who claim that addiction is not a disease usually base their arguments on the fact that the person’s choices led to the changes in the brain that drive addiction. But, if this argument is to be used, then it can also be argued that diabetes, heart disease, and other common health problems aren’t diseases because they are linked with personal choices such as exercise, sun exposure, diet, and more.

Chronic Disease and Long-Term Prognosis

When aggressive diseases are diagnosed, such as cancer or heart disease, then the doctor will provide a prognosis for this chronic condition. The medical team can work together to identify the best treatment plan to manage the symptoms and help the person heal if possible. Chronic diseases are characterised by symptoms that last for three months or more. But, advances in the medical industry have enabled people to manage and even reverse the symptoms of the disease.

In many situations, it is important that a long-term treatment program is addressed. Just as a cancer patient will start down the road to recovery with chemotherapy or radiation, someone suffering from an addiction needs to work with an industry professional to identify the therapies and treatments that are available to find relief.

Every situation requires a unique treatment plan to address the symptoms as well as the environmental, physical, or mental factors that might be contributing to the disease. You wouldn’t attempt a cancer treatment plan without the services from rehab facilities. So, why would you attempt to overcome addiction without an experienced team to assist? As you can see, there’s no question that addiction is a disease, which is why it is essential to seek help to overcome the symptoms and associated problems.

Aurora Recovery Centre’s philosophies are consistently reflected in the way we value our members and staff. Everything we do is in the interest of our members’ recovery for life.

Aurora’s treatment process is built upon a member-first culture and stands on three pillars that reflect our philosophy toward our members’ recovery: Heal, Connect and Recover.

Our modern world-class facilities are located on the serene western shore of Lake Winnipeg, accompanied by miles of wooded trails and breathtaking sunrises, with amenities that support healing.

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