a person asks a therapist, "is addiction a disease?"

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 person recovering 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 a sober future.

At The Right Step Hill Country, we believe that addiction treatment should be approached as a manageable disease. It has been proven that substance use disorder alters how brains function and produces significant behavioral changes. It also affects an individual’s ability to make healthy decisions, often leading to negative consequences. Learn more about our approach in our Texas addiction treatment center by calling 1.844.675.1628 today.

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 symptoms, 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 the overall health of the body. Also, like a terminal disease, addiction is chronic, meaning it is progressive and manageable but not curable. 

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 experts call “dependency.” The mental process goes far beyond a person’s ability to say “no” when tempted. 

Furthermore, neurotransmitters often govern 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.

Treating Addiction as a Disease

Addiction treatment often requires multiple layers of care, the same as a disease, such as: 

  • Intervention to prevent physical or mental harm – Harm reduction strategies and interventions provide the foundation for someone to get sober. By helping someone safely understand their situation and quit taking drugs, they are better able to walk the path to recovery with a lower risk of acute or long-term physical, psychological, or emotional problems.
  • Science-based (evidence-based) therapy – By relying on evidence-based therapies, like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), recovery professionals can measure progress and make reliable, achievable goals for people in recovery.
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) – The medications used in MAT are FDA-approved as safe and effective when used to treat substance use disorder. This is a great tool to help people with addiction transition back into daily life without the constant cravings and temptations that come with withdrawal.
  • Withdrawal and healing from toxins – Detoxification, or detox, is a medically supervised process of removing toxins from someone’s body and resetting their chemical balance. This helps to reduce cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms while they are healing.
  • Ongoing treatment to prevent relapse – After detox, ongoing treatment is necessary to prevent relapse. This includes support groups, therapy, and continued medication management as needed.

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

Treatment for Addiction Available in San Antonio

Find out more by contacting The Right Step Hill Country. Contact us online or call 1.844.675.1628 to schedule a consultation and find out more about your treatment options. We are here to help you break the cycle of addiction.

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