Is Drug Addiction Really a Disease?

There are a few common phrases you may have heard with regard to the world of addiction and recovery, and some of these involve descriptions of these conditions as diseases. It’s common to hear a specific question within drug addiction in particular: Is drug addiction really a disease?

At Moonlight Mountain Recovery, we’re here to offer caring addiction treatment programs to people around Boise, Pocatello and other parts of Idaho, including drug rehab, alcohol rehab, marijuana detox programs and more. We’re here to tell you that yes, drug addiction really is a disease – and here’s why.

Defining a Disease

To truly move forward with this conversation, we have to first define what a “disease” is in the medical world. Most people understand that a disease is a condition or illness that negatively affects the body and requires treatment to improve or fully resolve. However, there are other components to this definition as well.

One key element of a disease is that it involves some sort of change within the physical structure or function of the body. This can include things like abnormal cells, imbalanced hormones or malfunctioning organs. Additionally, diseases are typically considered chronic conditions – meaning they last for extended periods of time, even a lifetime.

So how does this concept apply to addiction? There are several ways, which we’ll go over below.

Role of Genetics and Family History

One major factor in determining whether a condition is truly a disease is the presence of genetic or hereditary components. In other words, if certain genes or traits are passed down through family lines and contribute to the development of a particular condition, it’s more likely to be classified as a disease.

In the case of addiction, research has shown that genetics can play a significant role in an individual’s susceptibility to developing substance use disorders. Studies have found that children of individuals with addiction are up to eight times more likely to develop addictive behaviors themselves.

Changes in Brain Chemistry

As mentioned earlier, diseases often involve changes in the physical structure or function of the body. In the case of addiction, these changes occur in the brain – specifically within the reward pathway and areas responsible for decision-making and impulse control.

When drugs are consumed, they stimulate the release of large amounts of dopamine (the “feel-good” chemical) in the brain. Over time, this can lead to a rewiring of the brain’s reward system and a decreased ability to regulate impulses.

For instance, someone addicted to drugs may prioritize obtaining and using the substance over other important aspects of their life, such as relationships or responsibilities. This compulsive behavior is a result of the changes in brain chemistry caused by addiction.

Behavioral or Mental Illness Factors

Another aspect of diseases is that they often involve behavioral or mental health components. This can include things like depression, anxiety, or other psychological disorders.

In the case of addiction, many individuals struggling with substance abuse also have underlying mental health issues that contribute to their addiction. These conditions may be present before the addiction begins, or they may develop as a result of the addictive behaviors.

Environmental Factors

In many cases, some of the single largest factors in the development of a disease are environmental. In other words, external factors such as exposure to certain toxins or living in certain conditions may increase the risk of developing a particular illness.

In the case of addiction, environmental factors can play a significant role in an individual’s likelihood of developing a substance use disorder. This can include things like peer pressure, trauma, stress, or exposure to drugs at a young age.

Environmental factors can also include things like family dynamics and socioeconomic status. Individuals who grow up in households where drug use is normalized or have limited access to resources may be at a higher risk for developing addiction.

Possible Chronic Factors

Finally, we must consider the chronic nature of addiction in determining whether it can be classified as a disease. As mentioned earlier, diseases typically last for extended periods of time – and in many cases, there is no definitive “cure.” This is similar to addiction, which often requires ongoing management and support even after initial treatment.

While some may argue against labeling addiction as a chronic disease, the evidence suggests that it fits the criteria in many ways. From the impact on brain chemistry to the role of genetics and environmental factors, addiction meets many of the requirements for a disease.

At Moonlight Mountain Recovery, we are dedicated to helping individuals struggling with addiction by providing personalized and evidence-based treatment. We believe that understanding addiction as a disease is crucial to effectively addressing its complex nature and helping individuals achieve long-term recovery. Contact us today to learn about any of our addiction treatment programs across Boise, Pocatello or nearby areas of Idaho.

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