Processing – Defining Addiction as a Disease

addictionWhen you think of someone who is addicted, what initially goes through your mind?

  • vagrant, down and out in the street, sleeping rough
  • someone shooting up crack cocaine
  • someone vomiting in the street after a night clubbing
  • someone who over eats
  • someone who under eats

Check out my previous post for a generalised view as I processed addiction

Here I am – processing again.  This time it is the idea that “Addiction is a Disease”.

I have struggled with the approach of defining alcoholic addiction as a disease.  Now I see that there are other addictions that, apparently, should fall under this ‘label’.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against the addict.  In fact, I work with addicts every day, yet I sometimes have difficulty getting my head around the notion that the addictions I see can all be labelled as a disease.

But my attitude is changing.

In order to be considered a disease, an addiction has to be researched scientifically as well as generally.  I didn’t realise that it took well over 30 years of research before they labelled alcoholism a disease.

Also, it has to ‘fulfill’ certain criteria.*

  1. Compulsion – alcoholics report being ‘compelled’ to drink, even when they didn’t want to.
  2. Obsession – intense pre-occupation.  The addict ignores other areas of life and focuses attention on a person, activity or substance
  3. Continuing despite adverse consequences – continuing to do things that harm, even when you know that they harm.
  4. Tolerance – this involves a neurochemical reaction of the brain e.g. one drink would make someone tipsy but continually using alcohol means that the body adjusts so that one drink won’t have the same effect.  It might take 2, or 3, or 4.

Labelling addiction as a disease does not, in any way, remove responsibility away from the addict.

So, here I am, processing these new facts.  What about you?  Do you agree or disagree with the thought that addiction is a disease?  I’m waiting to hear your views.

Thanks to Patrick Carnes: “Out of the Shadows” and Marni C. Ferree: “No Stones” which has contributed to this post.

About katehobbs

Mother to two who are now independant and living away from home. Wife to Steve, for the last 26yrs and looking forward to many more years. I have enjoyed 18 months in the Okanagan, something that I have longed to have the opportunity to do for a while. Living a dream, you could say. Now, I am interning with Living Waters Canada based in Vancouver until end of April 2013. I love to grow my own food - it tastes so much better. I also build up, train and encourage others to achieve more than they thought possible.
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4 Responses to Processing – Defining Addiction as a Disease

  1. i”m honestly not sure what i think?

  2. Jude says:

    I think we’re all addicts Kate. We may not be addicted to drugs or alcohol, or other such obvious things, but we’re certainly all addicted to certain things in life. I have a friend who can’t live happily without a dog; a friend who is addicted to learning and is forever doing a new course on something or other; a husband who’s addicted to being in control, and myself who’s addicted to always having the door open with the chance of moving on (a fear of suffocation or restriction). I think addiction can be physical or mental. Alcohol or drug addictions may well start out as a mental/emotional issue, but then turn into a physical need. The definition of disease in my dictionary is: unhealthy condition of body, mind … etc. So I guess addiction is a disease, but that doesn’t mean we’re not responsible for our own addictions.
    It sometimes takes courage and a certain insight to change one’s thinking, and break old patterns. But if we can do it we can move on and let go of old addictions. I try to follow the Buddhist idea of non-attachment which has helped enormously. 🙂

    • katehobbs says:

      I agree that we are all addicted to something. It is easier for others around us to see what we are addicted to. Its harder for us to see it for ourselves. I tend to prefer being in control and also I keep busy – doing things because I need to be needed. Funny how in our middle-age years, things come to light that have been with us all our lives and we recognise that change is required to stay in a place of health.
      Thanks, as always, for commenting Jude. I appreciate it.

  3. Hi Kate it is good to catch up with you again, it seems that I find those who I can relate to when needed. I hope you don’t mind the detail in my comment but I felt the need to share openly with you, thank you for the opportunity to do so and for your helpful and well informed message that got me pondering .

    I was addicted to gambling for many years and it had all the Symptoms as you outlined, mainly it controlled me. It had the same withdrawals too depression with the need for excess adrenalin no longer available. I was delivered from my Addiction through heart repentance and the anointing of an Elder in the Church, after many years of bondage, that was 16 years ago but before I was involved in the workings of Church life, I was also addicted but not being taught how to put my flesh to death by the empowering of the Holy Spirit as I chose to walk in His fruit, I fell again into this bondage that ends in sin that entangles but I never rejected Jesus, He was always there but my focus was not on Him and so I was separated from Him and reaped what I sowed. I didn’t appreciate the discipline of time out and God’s chastising and rebuking by those who could see I was in danger and who Loved me enough to warn me but like the Prodigal son I came to my senses and was Lovingly restored, a black sheep who God rescued.

    In reference to food, we need to always have God’s balance which He will give us if we ask so we do not Trust not man’s fleshy ideas, it’s so easy to once again be in bondage, to dieting, exercise and the health food mania, instead we Trust God to empower us to have His balance in all things. Everything He created was good including the coffee bean and tobacco but it can kill because it was never created to be smoked and even honey can make us sick if we have too much, this is the same with sugar and fat. Saccharine etc as a situate is dangerous and so is having no fat in our diet or forbidding anything that is not dangerous, like chocolate, coffee or wine in moderation and promoting one type of food or a few only . Man can use all God’s gifts wrongly, or without balance, this is the danger man brings on himself, which I did too, before I gave up smoking 40 cigarettes a day, it’s a habit that kills but so do other things like drugs, eating, drinking, dieting and gambling etc all which will turn into an Addiction as we let them control us.

    Sin is sin no matter how many try to excuse it, ignore it or blame others and must be confessed and turned away from but we must be careful not to include ours or others weaknesses and shortcomings as sin. We can break old habits and start new ones but we can’t change physical defects including those that cause weight gain, our D.N.A is different to others, we may not have a twiggy frame but also abuse and fear can contribute to weight gain and other Addictions.

    We need to always have compassion and Love for those in bondage regardless of the Addiction, yes we can recognise someone who is addicted by their actions and words but we must not condemn them because we don’t know why they suffer from it but God does and if they ask with a willingness to listen to Godly advice they can have the victory over it, He will deliver and give them freedom.

    Christian Love from both of us – Anne.

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