Let’s face it. Addiction can, and addiction does destroy people’s relationships. Statistics show that over 20 million Americans over the age of 12 have an addiction (excluding tobacco). And if that doesn’t terrify you enough, 100 people die every day from drug overdoses. This rate has tripled in the past 20 years.
Addiction is a harmful condition that has the power to make life hell for the people who directly suffer from it as well as the people who are also affected indirectly.
However, I couldn’t help but notice that lately, more and more people refer to addiction as a disease. While I understand that some people simply cannot think of it as a choice, I believe that it is important for us to realize that addiction can never be a medical condition.
This is why.
Just recently I came across a thought-provoking study published in CMAj about addiction that opened my eyes and really changed my perspective. It went over how addiction should not be treated as a disease. And the most important factor that separated addiction from being treated as a medical condition was the choice.
The free will we all have.
You see, we all have the right to choose in life. But, ultimately our choices are our own responsibilities. Addiction doesn’t begin with anything else, rather than our conscious choice to take the substance in front of us. Once that substance is consumed, that’s when all hell breaks loose.
According to the paper that I mentioned earlier, you could refer to addiction as mental as a ‘self-inflicted mental illness’, however, it is essential to understand that “Addiction does not meet the criteria specified for a core disease entity.”
Furthermore, the researchers explain that addiction is a self-acquired condition and it is not transmissible, hereditary, autoimmune, contagious, degenerative or traumatic. The treatment for this condition cannot be compared to the treatments medical conditions require.
Because, when real diseases are left untreated, they tend to worsen. But, addiction, on the other hand, can be cured by simply stopping a certain harmful behavior.
“A patient with cancer is not cured if locked in a cell, whereas an alcoholic is automatically cured. No access to alcohol means no alcoholism. A person with schizophrenia will not remit if secluded. Sepsis will spread, and Parkinson disease will worsen if left untreated. At best, addiction is a maladaptive response to an underlying condition, such as depression or a nonspecific inability to cope with the world.”
The truth is, medicalizing addiction has not done any good for anyone. It has not led to any improvements at an individual level. The only thing it has done was to prove that it is a social problem that requires effective social interventions.
The minute we start to refer to addiction as a disease, we are comparing it to real diseases like cancer, and that to me is completely unacceptable and unfair. Cancer sufferers cannot make the decision to get rid of their disease through a long abstinence or detox. But, addicts, on the other hand, can. Again, it is their own choice to make.
I am not stating that alcoholism or drug addiction is an easy condition to overcome, but at the end of the day, it could never be put on the same level with any real disease out there.
What do you think?
I would love to see your comments on this subject.