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Is addiction really a disease?

Addiction, Recovery, Treatment

Drugabuse.gov defines addiction as “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works.” I would add that alcohol would qualify in the use of the word drug in this definition.

In a controversial move in 1956, the American Medical Association (AMA) classified alcoholism as a disease. More recently, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) further defined addiction as a disease after a thorough four-year process with input from over 80 experts including top addiction authorities, addiction medicine doctors, and eminent neuroscientists. More can be found here.

There are basically 5 criteria to classify something as a disease: It must be an illness that is primary (stands alone), chronic (lasts a long time), progressive (left untreated, it gets worse over time), causes morbidity (makes us sick), and is potentially fatal.

The earlier any illness or disease is detected and the more aggressively it’s treated, the better the chances for recovery. There is no simple “cure” for addiction, but remission is attainable and recovery is possible. We can and do recover if we are willing to do the necessary footwork. Do you struggle with addiction? Right Turn-IMPACT is here to help.

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