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    Addiction as a Disease: A Crucial Classification

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    When a person finds themselves faced with addiction, there are also faced with choices that might seem impossible to make. The choice to be honest and come to terms with the reality of their addiction, the choice to seek help, and even the choice to stop using the very thing that holds them prisoner. Although the decision to stop suffering would be a no-brainer for most people suffering from as fatal and painful a condition as addiction, this in no way lessens the struggle an addict must face when making this choice. An addict deciding to kick their addiction can mean painful withdrawal symptoms, being forced to face a reality they were using drugs to escape from in the first place, and a life tainted by constant temptation and fear. None of these consequences sound especially appealing, even when compared with the reality of dying alone, still using the substance you were unable to give up. But they are the lesser of two evils, and addicts need to be helped toward making this choice for themselves if they are ever expected to recover. Considering addiction a disease allows for the government to provide funding for treatment, helps addicts make sense of their suffering, and lets us feel sympathy towards those who are addicted. For these reasons, addiction should still be considered a disease, especially in the eyes of those giving and receiving treatment.

    When looking at addiction, it should be noted that substance abuse does cause physical changes to the brain. Certain drugs can cause an imbalance of hormones, as they “stimulate the release of the chemical messenger dopamine” as stated by Michael Craig Miller in his article “Addiction Is a Brain Disease” This leads to a sense of euphoria, a feeling which most people would desire to experience again. Although this is the initial change in the brain caused by addictive substances, addiction itself is shown to “involve multiple chemical messengers” that result in the almost uncontrollable desire to use the substance again (Miller). It has also been shown that, much like any other disease, addicts show response to drug treatment that impedes the release of these addictive chemicals and “reverses the pleasurable of narcotics” (Miller). This shows clearly how addiction is very much a physical ailment, and not just a question of willpower as some might argue.

    While it could be said that the chemical changes caused by addiction are insignificant and do not reflect the reality of disease, I would disagree. Having experienced the dramatic affects of hormones and chemical changes within the brain first hand, it should be obvious to anyone who has experienced these changes that they are not to be taken lightly. In the opinion of psychologist Gene M. Heyman, “all experience that changes behavior does so by changing the brain… The critical question is whether they block the influence of the factors that support self-control.” In his opinion these chemical changes are no excuse for the lack of self control some people seem to have. But he fails to recognize how some people can be more heavily influenced by hormones and chemical changes than others. And although these changes might not entirely impede a person’s ability to make their own choices, that does not mean they can not make it more ditficult to make rational decisions or exercise will power. Although his arguments are sound and logical, many of them do not fully reflect human sensibility, and how addiction is just as much an emotional disease as it is a physical change in one’s body and mind. He expects people to exercise complete will power and rationality, even in the face of addiction. And in his eyes, if one person is able to do this, than another person also suffering from addiction should be able to do the same. But some people react to disease differently, just as some people respond to treatment differently. In this way, addiction is very much like a disease, and should be treated as Such despite Heyman’s arguments.

    Even for those who deny the classification of addiction as a disease, it is still undeniable that at least thinking of addiction as a disease can prove beneficial to addicts. This allows for addicts to make sense of their choices, and feel open to receiving the help they may need to truly recover. In the article written by former addict Trinny Woodall, she explains how she “was a sick person, [who) needed to get well.” By thinking of her addiction in these terms, it allowed her to make sense of her symptoms and move forward with her recovery. She explains how “the belief that [she] had a disease helped [her] to get through it” (Woodall). Had she not been allowed to view addiction in this light, and was instead made to demonize herself for her suffering, she might never have gotten better. And if she was not able to follow a step by step program that acted as her treatment, she may have never stopped using in the first place. This shows how by looking at addiction as a disease, we allow for addicts to seek treatment and get the help they may need to recover.

    Thinking of addiction as a disease is a very important part of treatment and the recovery process. Despite the opinions of many that addiction is a state of mind, this does not change the fact that many people react to the use of addictive drugs in varying ways. The physical changes that occur with addiction affect people differently. Although some may find themselves capable of exercising self-control, others find it necessary to think of their addiction as a disease in order to recover. Thinking of addiction as anything less than a critical disease would mean addicts being unable to receive treatment or make sense of their issues. If full recovery is to be made possible, it is crucial that addiction continue to be classified as a disease in the eyes of those suffering and treating addiction.

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    Addiction as a Disease: A Crucial Classification. (2023, Mar 24). Retrieved from

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