Why Addiction Is a Disease & How You Can Get Clean for Good

Why Addiction Is a Disease & How You Can Get Clean for Good

In this blog, I will discuss why addiction is a disease and how we can share this message with others to change the stigma and promote those struggling to get the help they need.

Why Addiction Is a Disease

The American Medical Association announced in 1956 that alcoholism was a disease. Next, the American Psychiatric Association stated in 1960 that addiction was a disease. To draw these conclusions, scientific data was collected and tested to confirm that people matched the criteria. However, several medical providers and individuals still struggle with these findings today.

Why scientific data found addiction to be a disease was met by meeting several criteria.

1. It Is a Chronic Condition

Addiction doesn’t go away. However, if treated, it can go into remission by not taking other drugs or drinking alcohol.

2. It Progresses

Due to the fact it progresses, it is a predictable condition.

3. From Use to Dependence

The progression moves from use (i.e., partying with friends or family) to abuse (throwing up, blacking out) to dependence (negative consequences start happening).

More like this: Alcohol Habit vs Addiction – How It Forms

4. It Has a Set of Symptoms

  • Preoccupation (cannot stop using, going to use the drug of choice, thinking about, or using)
  • Negative consequences (loss of homes, custody of children, money, lives, jobs, marriages)
  • Isolation (so now one knows what you’re up to)

5. Fatality

The final symptom of addiction is that the disease will kill you if left untreated.

The gravity of addiction is generally what gets a loved one’s attention.

Yet, many loved ones also have a difficult time with the results of the negative consequences. It can be challenging to have family or friends’ support. Especially after the struggling person has lost all their money paying for fentanyl or got fired because they showed up high.

More like this: How to Change Mindset & Support Someone With an Addiction

College Assignment: Give Something up for 30 Days

Several years ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to teach a Master’s level course at a university. I often was asked, “Why can’t your people stop doing drugs?” when they found out I worked in the addiction field.

I devised an assignment to put the students in a similar mindset instead of just discussing addiction. Therefore, I challenged my 23 students to give up something out of their routine for 30 days. After the assignment started, they were not allowed to swap out for something else. Each of my students responded, “No big deal!” They were to document every time they “relapsed” to see how well they could hold up.

In just a week, 8 of them came to me to change their decision, and I firmly said no. The patients in their addiction treatment programs didn’t get to change, so my students couldn’t either.

Students Noted Similar Behaviors to Addiction Disorders

When the assignment reached 30 days, not one of the 23 students made it without “relapsing” 3 times, and the majority just gave up.

The students attempted to give up candy, caffeine, social media, soda, etc. A lot of them recorded that they experienced behaviors similar to those with addiction disorders when they attempted to stop.

  • “When I couldn’t do it, I was angry, so I just stopped trying.”
  • “I was upset when my roommate brought home pizza, and the smell tormented me. “
  • “All I thought about was not being able to scroll on Instagram to look at funny dog videos.”
  • “I tossed and turned all night.”

Sure enough, all of them were shocked at how challenging the assignment was. Indeed, they were not addicted to these parts of their lives. For 3 semesters, I thought the course and the results were always the same.

Amazingly, they were all surprised that this could be so hard. Certainly, they were not addicted to these parts of their lives. I taught this course for three semesters, and this exercise produced the same results each time.

My College Students Changing Their Minds About Addiction Disorders

As humans, we perceive that we are separate from others with our behavioral patterns. However, there are distinct similarities. After the assignment, my students were more willing to work alongside people who struggled with addiction. For those struggling, it is not solely about drugs or alcohol. They want to stop, and their support system wants them to stop. However, everything changes once they go from abusing a substance to being dependent on it, and there isn’t a way to turn it off on their own.

More like this: How to Not Be an Enabler of Addiction

Getting Help for Addiction at the Coleman Network for Addiction Medicine

The same situation happens to those with repetitive behaviors. They are also unaware of the dependence. If you find yourself or someone you care about in this situation, please educate yourself about the DISEASE of ADDICTION. So you can seek out help or share it with someone who needs to hear it.

The stigma of shame surrounds the disease of addiction. But, your acceptance and/or love might be the condition that can help someone hold their head up high again and rejoin the world. We are each able to help change our lives, and if we can be an ally too, there can be no limit to recovery possibilities.

Judi Schmidt, LCSW

More like this: Taking the First Step in Your Recovery Journey

Recovery Starts With Finding The Right Detox Option For You.

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