Is Drug Addiction a Disease?

is drug addiction a disease

At least 24 million Americans have used drugs at some point in their lives.

You, or someone you love, may be battling with drug addiction after casual usage spiraling out of control. You may also be grappling with the question of, “Is drug addiction a disease?”

While some people frame drug addiction as a choice, the medical community has an entirely different take on it. Read on for more information on drug addiction and how professionals categorize it.

Is Drug Addiction a Disease?

We all know people who have posted on social media shaming drug addicts or parents who have died from drug use. They may say that precious resources are wasted on them because drug addiction is a choice.

Or, you may know someone in your life who has asked why you or your loved one can’t quit drugs since they can simply choose not to take them.

However, according to experts, drug addiction is, in fact, a disease. It is not the same as casually drinking or using drugs here and there. An addiction has pushed beyond those boundaries and is no longer pleasurable for the person who is addicted.

This is when drug use become classified as a disease.

Why Is Drug Addiction Categorized As a Disease?

For those who believe drug addiction is a choice, it may be difficult to understand why people continue to do drugs. This is especially true for people who have done drugs a few times but never managed to make it a habit.

Drug addiction, or the disease of drug addiction, does come about from the casual use of drugs. In many regards, an addict would not have become a drug addict if they had not been introduced to drugs in the first place. However, most drug addicts have underlying issues, and they may have used other destructive behaviors to cope with their circumstances had they not been introduced to drugs.

But, drug use becomes an addiction, or a disease, when the person feels compelled to continue to take drugs even just to function normally, even when there is little pleasure.

Those who take drugs may feel incredibly high the first few times they take it. But as they continue to go back to taking the drug, they need more and more to achieve that same feeling. This is because they’ve developed a tolerance.

Once someone becomes pathologically addicted, they need to continue to use drugs in order to prevent going through withdrawal. For those without the resources to withdrawal, or detox, in a safe environment, this can be incredibly difficult, and in some cases, life-threatening.

Why Does a Drug Addict Start Taking Drugs in the First Place?

Those who have little sympathy for drug addicts may wonder why they began taking drugs in the first place. They may acknowledge that long-term drug use does cause a disease, but that the person could have chosen not to use drugs in the first place.

But, things are not really as simple as that.

For instance, many people can diet and lose a desired amount of weight without teetering into anorexia or the urge to starve, and then binge and purge. Other people may start out trying to improve their looks or fitness and end up exercising and dieting compulsively.

Just as with a drug habit, a person with an eating disorder continues the behavior long after the reward, to the point that there is no reward any longer. Instead, it becomes chronic and compulsive to starve themselves or to binge and purge.

As with a potential drug addict, some people can take drugs or drink occasionally without developing a problem. Others cannot do so without falling down a dark hole of addiction.

Many drug addicts do not start out taking drugs with the intention of becoming addicts, just as most people with anorexia do not go on a diet with the intention of becoming anorexic.

Instead, they are diseases developed over time.

Why Do Some People Become Addicted and Others Do Not?

In the last section, we discussed that some people can diet, exercise and take drugs or drink without developing a pathology for it. Other people cannot.

It is also useful to note that some people can do so at different stages in their lives, though they will likely always struggle with thoughts and temptations.

People become addicted to behaviors partially because they become physically addicted to them, but also because they become reliant on them.

Drugs, or drinking, are easy for people to become reliant on over time, especially if they are readily available. This is especially the case if the person is suffering from anxiety, depression or another psychological disorder. Or, they may use these unhealthy methods to cope during particularly difficult aspects of their lives.

Drugs, or any other destructive behavior that becomes addictive, have the power to help mitigate anxiety. They can also help people feel less depressed or deal with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Over time, a person may become psychologically dependent on illicit drugs to overcome their negative feelings.

What Do I Do If I or Someone I Love Suffer from a Drug Addiction?

You’ve now received the answer to the question, “Is drug addiction a disease?” If you, or someone you love, is suffering from the disease of drug addiction, it is time to take the next step.

Contact us to get started on the recovery journey today. We are staffed with trained professionals who are not only caring and compassionate, but who also understand that addiction isn’t a choice.

We’re here to help.

Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.