Rather than discuss is addiction a disease or isn’t it, let’s compare how we treat ourselves and each other if we believe addiction is a disease or a disgrace. If I’m a normy (not an addict or alcoholic) and my friend or loved one is an addict, how do I treat that person if I think they’re acting in a disgraceful manner? Do I berate them and treat them like second-class citizens? Do I complain about their behavior to others? And how do I treat myself if I’m addicted, can’t stop using, and believe it to be a moral failing? Do I contemplate suicide or continue with the slow suicide of addiction to block out the awful feelings of guilt and shame?
Now let’s look at how we treat people who we believe have a disease. If the addict is a friend or loved one, I’m more likely to offer help (not to be confused with enabling) and have compassion, even if they’re not ready to be helped and I need to love from afar. If the addict is me, I’m more likely to seek help when my life gets bad enough, if I believe I have a disease. And when I see others who have the same affliction living joyful, purposeful lives, I have hope that I can do it, too! Btw, many diseases in America stem from lifestyle choices that mask deeper, underlying problems, such as obesity, eating disorders, and some instances of high blood pressure just to name a few.
It seems to me looking at addiction as a disease is more beneficial all the way around, especially for the person doing the looking! It gets me out of judgement and into compassionate understanding. Please see my Addiction Unscripted opinion piece titled “Addiction is a Disease Not a Disgrace” for more commentary on this subject.
I thought a disease is living on the street abandoning human contact , but it can take many shapes and forms. My disease is not your disease. My addiction is my addiction. Addiction takes the positive out of the positive, and becomes a cause to correct a need to change. Addiction is the cause in events, abuse of oneself’s own choices.
So, disease is a word that through the ages had been used to describe racial intrusions, religious differences even “sexual deviance.” It has been synonymous with a state of dislike by those who are in the liked role. Although a philosophical definition would see addiction as a social/psychologically disease an epidemiologist would not. In the 20th century the word disease was adopted to be used by both psychologists and psychiatrist to describe unknown behaviors, but also by biologists and scientists researching pathogens and biochemical infections as well as viral/autoimmune disorders and cancers. This recategorized mental diseases into 2 areas those with pathologies and those with none. The psychological “diseases” are those with no pathology to be found also known as disorders. Any behavioral manifestation with no traceable pathology is a disorder.
But classically speaking diseases can and are cured by developments in technology. The idea that addiction is fatal if left untreated and thus it being a disease is a falsity if your premise is that diseases have no cure. But here in lies the problem if and when a technology comes around to cure substance addiction, the disease model will no longer be justifiable because new behavioral addictions will come to light.
Can you call video game addiction a disease? What about gambling? Disorders are perfectly fine at describing these behaviors but stretching disease to include volition in the area of obsessive compulsion will certainly cause issues in definitions of diseases.
Now if you are open minded enough to see all behaviors, attitudes and impulses as having a disease effect than go for it!
But if you are saying that addiction (which must be all addictions) is a biological disease with a pathology to be understood, traced and cured, then you will be sad to learn that in all fields of complex neuroscience, epidemiology, CDC contagion and disease protocols, data analysis of addiction studies there is no real definition of the disease of addiction. It is losely described as constant, recurring and fatal if left untreatex. Plenty of behavioral disorders have that quality but many are not categorized as diseases.
I am an extreme sport junky. If I continue, at somepoint my chances of death grow exponentially. Does that mean I have a disease of adrenal dependency? No. I enjoy thrills that excite and scare me.
I hope you now understand there are levels of disease definitions. Treatment and recovery use the top level of philosophical and social pandemics to describe the affliction of addiction.