Is Addiction a Disease?


Is addiction a disease? This question is largely debated in the professional field of addiction treatment. Understanding the nature of addiction helps both the therapist and the addict adopt the right treatment plan that sustains a long-term recovery. Therefore, while the question is addiction a disease? is not paramount to successful recovery, knowing the answer definitely contributes to recovery.



An Oregon drug addiction treatment center reveals that many clients who seek professional care exhibit many of the characteristics. Let’s take a closer look at whether addiction is a disease and how it helps us understand substance abuse. 


What is Addiction?

Is addiction considered a disease by treatment professionals? The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as:

..."a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.”


Someone who has a true addiction exhibits the following behaviors or mental state, including: 

  • Unable to stop using the substance or engaging in the behavior

  • Displays a lack of self-control when using the substance

  • A desire for the substance that slowly increases over time

  • Denial that they have an addiction or abuse the substance

  • No longer has an emotional response regarding their addiction 

  • Also, the individual continues to use the substance even if it affects their health, relationships, career, or other aspects of their life. 

Is Addiction a Disease?

Is addiction considered a disease? According to the Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is a biological disease that affects mental capacity, decision-making, and overall health of the body. Like a terminal disease, addiction is chronic, meaning, “Once an addict, always an addict.” 

Medical professionals no longer see "choice" as the central issue in addiction. In other words, people still have the power to say "no." However, while it is evident that choice still has a role in addiction, there are deeper scientific issues that factor into the condition. Once the mind attaches itself to a reward system, the entire body responds by rewarding the mind every time it craves the reward. This is what is called "dependency" The mental process goes far beyond a person’s ability to say "no" when tempted. 

To go a little deeper, neurotransmitters often govern our behaviors. Two primary transmitters that trigger addiction are dopamine and serotonin. Once the brain experiences high levels of these neurotransmitters over long periods, it is quite challenging to break the cycle of mental reward, motivation, and memory.


Treatment for Addiction is Similar to Any Disease

When looking at it from a treatment perspective, the answer is "yes." Addiction treatment often requires multiple layers of care the same as a disease, such as: 

Like any disease or medical issue, addiction displays all the classic symptoms of a medical condition.


Treatment for Addiction Available in Bend Oregon

Is addiction a disease? Find out more by contacting Sunstone Recovery.


Other Resources

Recovery Guide

Recovery Resources

Recovery Bookmarks

Recovery Sites and Adventures

Recovery Debate


Find the Treatment You Deserve!


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