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Is addiction a disease?

Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Medicine
There is evidence to support that addiction is a disease. In this video, addiction specialist Douglas Severance, MD, talks about the biology behind addiction and how that does not need to control a person’s behavior.
George Joseph
Addiction Medicine
When asked why he defines addiction as a disease, Dr. Jason Powers, chief medical officer at The Right Step, responds with, “In the science of addiction, we have a sick organ system – the brain. There is also a natural progression in the addiction process that is predictable and reproducible. Like every disease, addiction responds to treatment in all age groups and both sexes – it doesn’t discriminate. There is a significant behavioral component to addiction – true. But, other diseases have behavioral associations, too –  such as lung cancer with smoking, colon cancer with poor diet and smoking, or heart disease with poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking. Many diseases have behavioral factors present that increase the odds of contracting the disease.”
Anthony Beck
Addiction Medicine
Yes, it is a disease that lives in the mind of the addicted person. It is a recognized mental illness in the DSM VI.
Howard J. Shaffer, PhD
Addiction Medicine
Whether addiction is a disease is a hotly debated issue. Some clinicians argue that it is, citing the similarity in success rates for the treatment of addiction and other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. For them, calling addiction a disease also has pragmatic implications, because it means that insurance companies have to cover its treatment. However, others worry that calling addiction a disease is too simplistic and removes too much responsibility from the individual. Still, most would agree that, like people with serious diseases, people with addiction suffer—and this absence of "ease" in their lives is, at the very least, a "dis-ease."

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.