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Addiction is a disease that millions of Americans struggle with. It is a subject that is top of mind for many as the opioid overdose crisis is seeing 115 Americans die every single day.

Addiction definition

The word addiction comes from Roman Law and alludes to, “surrender to a master”. The definitions of addiction that professionals typically use to diagnose someone with alcohol and drug abuse disorders are determined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry.”

The new additions of this manual have disposed of terms like “dependence” or “abuse”. Instead, they use terms like “substance use disorder” or “alcohol use disorder”, “cocaine use disorder”, “heroin user disorder” etc.

Is Addiction a Disease?

Yes, addiction is a chronic disease of the brain, like bipolar disorder, and treatment requires more than just counseling and group talk therapy. Addiction is a disease

Disease is characterized by the compulsive craving for alcohol and drugs. It requires medical intervention and management over a lifetime by trained and certified professionals, the same way that other chronic diseases are. In fact, drug and alcohol addiction often requires pharmacological therapy in addition to counseling and lifestyle modification.

Since addiction is a chronic and recurring illness, addiction often requires continued treatment to anticipate relapses and diminish their intensity.

While relapses can be expected, addiction is a treatable disease. People with alcohol and drug addiction can recover and lead fulfilling lives.

More info on addiction as a disease can be found on the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

The Problem of Addiction

The problem of addiction is everywhere in the United States but most people still refuse to recognize addiction as a disease. If it was acknowledged by policymakers, the courts, and judiciary system then it would be brought under much better control.

A study done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance abuse found that addiction is the largest preventable health problem in America.  

The issue is that 90% of rehab clinics do not use any evidence-based medicine in their treatment programs. The reason is that laws and policymakers have not allowed for it. It is very important when choosing a rehab facility for addiction treatment that you ask if they are using medicine that is prescribed based on medical evidence.

Addiction Help Today is a free referral service. We provide you with expert consultation so you or your loved one are placed in the proper rehab facility based on their specific needs and get the addiction treatment that is required. Addiction is a disease and needs to be treated as such.

Addiction Characteristics and Stages

The terms addict, alcoholic, drug abuser and so on are being changed. The answer to the original question about what it means to be addicted is defined by the following characteristics:

  • Failure to meet work, social or family obligations because of substance abuse.
  • Continued drug or alcohol abuse despite the negative consequences.
  • Increased tolerance to drug or alcohol, meaning you need more of the substance to get the desired effect.
  • Regularly consumption of drugs and alcohol in larger amounts over a longer period of time (more than intended).
  • Devoting a substantial amount of time to getting, using or recovering from the effects of drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Physical or mental withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the drug.
  • Craving drugs or craving alcohol often.

While all of these characteristics point to addiction, just because you have one of them does not mean you are a drug addict or alcoholic. People with two or three of these characteristics have mild substance abuse disorders.

Those with four to five have a moderate substance abuse disorder. Having 1-5 of the above characteristics still does not define true addiction. However, if you have 6 or all of the above characteristics you are addicted and should seek addiction treatment.