Addiction for a long time was stigmatized as a moral failing. Addicts and alcoholics were thought to just be bad people. Today though, we know the opposite is true. While many addict and alcoholic’s choice seem to make them bad people what they are is suffering from a disease not a lack of morals. The stigmas of addicts and alcoholics being bad people still follows them around regardless of this knowledge but it is slowly being broken.
Addiction is a Disease
In the days before addiction was considered a disease, our society was very prejudiced towards people with addictions. Addicts were seen as different and less than “normal” people. Addicts were thought to have low discipline and morals. Addicts were seen as self-centered and uncaring. They also were seen as people who were out for themselves without any regard for anyone else.
When the idea that addiction was a disease cam about, people started to realize that addicts weren’t bad people, they were actually sick people. This changed everything moving forward. Of course it wasn’t totally a good thing to hear certain people were suffering from another type of disease but it was better than being morally judged and deemed self-centered.
The Science Behind Addiction as a Disease
Drug addiction shares many features with other chronic illnesses including a tendency to run in families (genetic), an onset and course that can be influenced by environment and behavior, and the ability to respond to appropriate treatment which may or may not include long-term lifestyle changes.
You can think of addiction much like other chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Studies have shown that addictive behaviors are influence by a person’s environment and their genetics as well as the combination of the two. While genetics plays a huge role, the environment can be just as influential.
Why Treatment is Important
Because addiction is a disease that is not only chronic but also progressive and potentially fatal is absolutely essential that those suffering with it get the help they need. Also because addiction is a disease it needs lifelong treatment which means that while a 30 day rehab is great for creating a foundation and learning tools to keep the disease at bay, something must be at work all the time in an addict’s life in order to help them stay in recovery.
Unfortunately because addiction is a disease it is also characterized by relapse. This means an addict can move backwards back into sickness or in this case using drugs or drinking. But addicts don’t have to relapse just because they have the disease. If they take the right action every day they cannot only find lifelong recovery but they can also never end up relapsing. It is a lot like a diabetic who stay really good on their diet and exercise for the rest of their life. Addiction is not a death sentence. There is hope and addicts can recover. While they may never be cured there is a better way of life out there.