Concept of the Month -- March 2007

More on "Addiction" as a "Disease"

I receive many questions about my previous discussion (both on "Concept of the Month" and during public presentations and in my writings) as to whether addiction is a "disease." The following provides more thoughts on this matter.

I have said that it certainly is not a condition that one catches like the flu, that choices are made to engage in whatever the behavior is -- use of illegal drugs, drinking alcoholic beverages, wolfing down chocolate, remaining glued to the internet, etc. The person who repeats the behavior over and over again feels drawn to it, like a magnet. One man recently spoke of feeling like he is in a tunnel, barreling down tracks on a train. He said he experienced himself as "out of control." There is what he experienced. I have no argument with him. He knows how he felt.

Addiction is not a disease that a doctor cures a person of. The "addict" has responsibility for treating his own condition. Certainly, he may require help from others. In the final analysis, he makes the choices all the way along including whether to seek treatment or stay in treatment.

Remember, addiction does not constitute the person's entire problem. One must look at the core personality of the individual. What errors in thinking were present BEFORE he became addicted. The individual refuses to live in a world that he finds boring, devoid of the excitement that he craves (frequently doing what is forbidden or illegal). How does it help to view substance abuse and thinking errors that give rise to it as a "disease"?

A predisposition for substance does seem to run in some families. All the more reason to choose not to drink or use drugs!

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