Is Addiction Really a Disease? 

A hotly debated topic that has surfaced recently revolves around the question: “Is addiction really a disease?” To many, this conversation is of utmost importance. These individuals insist that addiction is a certifiable disease, upheld by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) definition of “substance abuse disorder”. 

However, to some, the idea of calling addiction a disease comes off as enabling to the user. They would insist that addiction cannot be a disease, but is a more of a moral choice, and believe this new definition of addiction is enabling addicts to continue using.

We at Coastal Detox uphold and affirm that addiction is in fact a disease. However, this statement does not mean we are enabling individuals to continue using, or rule out the power of an individual’s choices affecting their life.

Below, we will try to clarify some things revolving around this topic of whether or not addiction is truly a disease.

Defining Disease 

The definition of disease is as follows: “A disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury.” In this way, addiction is certainly considered a disease. In fact, the surgeon general recently declared addiction to be a disease.

The fact is that addiction changes the structure of the brain and thus, it can be classified as a disorder. Along with this, prolonged usage of alcohol or drugs affects the memory, motivation, and reward centers of the brain. This is relevant information because these brain changes: 

  • Meet the criteria ofthe disease definition
  • Are not related to any brain injury
  • Suggest that the individual is not just “choosing” to be an addict

All of this points to addiction as a disease rather than simply a choice of free will, although the addiction may begin as a choice of free will at first. But once the drugs have changed physical brain structures, the person is an addict, and the addiction is no longer a choice, but a disorder.

Why the Disease Model Isn’t Black and White 

Although we do agree that addiction is a disease, there is also no such thing as black and white when it comes to addiction. Some individuals will claim that viewing addiction as a disease enables addicts to continue using. However, the opposite is true if addiction is truly a disease.

Think of someone with type two diabetes. This is no doubt a serious disease, yet it is one that has been caused by an individual’s actions over time. Although this diagnosis is the result of prolonged lifestyle choices, the general public accepts it as a disease just the same. And this by no means enables diabetics to continually indulge in sugary sweets.

On the contrary, the disease model of addiction encourages individuals to seek help rather than shaming them for poor moral judgement. A cancer patient goes to the hospital for help, so too an addict will go to rehab for treatment.

Viewing addiction as a disease also removes much of the feelings of guilt, isolation, and shame often experienced by struggling addicts (all of which are triggers for continued use, by the way). Thus, it can be said that addiction is a disease affected by a poor lifestyle.

While saying no to the substance might not be a black and white choice, going to rehab to get started on your recovery certainly is. Getting help is a choice that must be made if addiction is truly a disease.

Get Help Today 

We at Coastal Detox want to help you in any way that we can. We want to walk this journey with you and assure you that you are not alone. If you or someone you know are struggling with an addiction, please contact us today.

Give us a call at (877) 406-6623 to connect with a specialist who will listen to your specific concerns. Even if you just need to talk, reach out today. You owe it to yourself to take your life back. Start your journey to sobriety today.

Real Client Testimonials

  • Before coming to coastal I was hopeless, helpless, and my family wanted nothing to do with me. It wasn’t the first detox I’d ever been to, but it was the only one who showed me so much love and compassion. They gave me hope. It’s hard to put into words the amount of gratitude I have for this facility. The employees were my family when I had none. The staff went out of their way to make sure not only were my physical needs taken care of, but my emotional needs as well. From the first phone call prior to admission, to helping me set up continuing care, they never missed a beat. Even going as far as to help me with my legal issues via Zoom court. This isn’t just a detox, they are the family I never had. All of the techs, especially Karen, are phenomenal. They will take the time to listen to you, laugh, and cry(if needed) with you. If you are reading this and you or your loved one is suffering like I was, go to Coastal Detox. The level of care is more than I could ever put into a review. It wasn’t the first detox I’d been to, but it has been my last; I owe them everything I have today, including my life.

    Travis B. Avatar
    Travis B.
    12/07/2020
  • Had a really good experience at Coastal. The staff really went above and beyond in helping me get in and gave me the respect l, space and care I needed after I first got there. As I started to fell better they encouraged me to take part in groups which helped get me out of my head and bring positivity and health to my thinking. They had a great massage therapist, who came daily and it was evident the nursing staff genuinely cared. Got to know some of the staff as well and I’m grateful for the cooks Joe and Chris. Those guys literally made us sirloins and pork chops for dinner. Also I gotta thank Chris and Chris for helping me get in and setting me up with a transition plan. Real grateful for that help, I’m not sure if it’s management intention to hire guys named Chris but they got a good thing going there. Overall, I’m clean and sober today and walking it out. Coastal gave me a base that set me up for the success that I’m walking in today

    Brandon B. Avatar
    Brandon B.
    1/16/2020
  • My family is very thankful for Coastal Detox. They have went above and beyond for my son a few times. Unfortunately he has needed their help more than once and they have ever turned their back on him, even when he was at his worst. Jeannie and Chris have been amazing and kept me informed through the entire process. They truly care about the addict and want to help them especially when it would be easy to give up on them. I had many detox facilities be rude and uncaring to me when I was searching for help for my son, but Coastal never did that to us. I don't know the names of all the team members that have helped my son but I know their are many and y'all are angels!! One day we will be able to pay it forward and help someone as you have helped us. Thank you for all you do!!

    Brenda A. Avatar
    Brenda A.
    1/01/2020
  • Can not say enough nice things about Coastal Detox & staff. Family member was there, told me five stars for the facility & all whom she interacted with. Said the facilities, ambience..., cleanliness, grounds, food, (think their chef is five stars), were all top shelf. All I interacted with personally & on the phone were patient, professional, responsive & caring. Kudos to so many: Jeannie Jones, Clinical Director whom I spent the most face to face time with: great oversight, patience & follow thru. Raquel Barker, Therapist was so understanding & on spot with her assessments/care. Kris Garrigus Admissions Director, another Coastal professional whom I cannot say enough nice things about, always so patient & responsive to my probably too frequent inquires. Not to be forgotten is Judy Tucker, Director of Operations she too so patiently "put up with me"
    I highly recommend Coastal Detox

    Susan C. Avatar
    Susan C.
    11/13/2019
  • Can not say enough nice things about Coastal Detox & staff. Family member was there, told me five stars for the facility & all whom she interacted with. Said the facilities, ambience..., cleanliness, grounds, food, (think their chef is five stars), were all top shelf. All I interacted with personally & on the phone were patient, professional, responsive & caring. Kudos to so many: Jeannie Jones, Clinical Director whom I spent the most face to face time with: great oversight, patience & follow thru. Raquel Barker, Therapist was so understanding & on spot with her assessments/care. Kris Garrigus Admissions Director, another Coastal professional whom I cannot say enough nice things about, always so patient & responsive to my probably too frequent inquires. Not to be forgotten is Judy Tucker, Director of Operations she too so patiently "put up with me"
    I highly recommend Coastal Detox

    Susan C. Avatar
    Susan C.
    11/06/2019

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