Is Drug Addiction a Disease?

Is Drug Addiction a Disease
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Drug addiction, drug abuse, substance abuse, and substance use disorder are all terms which are oftentimes used to describe or define the same thing. And often with these terms come long-standing stigmas surrounding anyone who is labeled as suffering from drug addiction.

Addiction, including drug addiction, is a multifaceted issue that impacts people from all walks of life. Addiction is said not to discriminate and study upon study has found this to be true. While there are trends amongst those with substance use disorders (SUDs) or drug addictions, addiction to drugs or alcohol can affect anyone. Individuals from all genders, education levels, family backgrounds, socio-economic levels, occupations, etc. have all found themselves in the grips of drug addiction.

One of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of addiction is the conception that the person with the problem lacks the morals or willpower to quit. Observers who watch an individual with a drug addiction self-destruct often think if they were stronger or had been raised differently, really cared about their family, and endless other beliefs, they would be able to quit. Research shows that this simply isn’t true.

Is Drug Addiction Really a Disease? What Research Says

Luckily for those with addiction issues and their loved ones, much progress has been made in the field of addiction. And what has been revealed is that addiction is actually a chronic disease that impacts the brain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), it is characterized by repetitive and compulsive drug-seeking despite the risk of or actual harmful consequences.

This is the behavior that makes many people who are uneducated about addiction believe that drug addiction is a choice, not a disease. When in fact, science shows that it is indeed a chronic disease. And like any other chronic disease such as asthma or diabetes, continual maintenance and treatment is needed to stay healthy. A chronic disease is one that cannot be cured but can be controlled.

According to the Center on Addiction, there are 40 million Americans, or one in seven, over the age of 12 who have a substance use problem or addiction. This number includes addiction to drugs, alcohol, and nicotine.

And while the question—is drug addiction a disease or choice—continues to be debated, many professional organizations such as the American Medical Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, American Psychiatry Association, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and more agree that drug addiction is a disease.

In fact, because of the Affordable Care Act, numerous health care providers are now required to cover certain essential benefits including mental health and substance abuse treatment. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) is extended so that coverage for both mental health and substance abuse treatment must be covered or have at least the same coverage as offered for physical health issues. This is just further acknowledgment and acceptance that drug addiction really is a disease.

What Causes Drug Addiction?

Like other chronic diseases, addiction is often thought to be caused by a combination of factors. These are biological, environmental, and behavioral. And as research deepens, the genetic component is believed to play a large part in predisposing an individual to addiction.

Once a person begins to regularly use a substance, their brain changes. This is because most substances make the brain release ‘feel-good’ chemicals which are normally naturally produced in the body. Once this drug use begins to happen more and more, the brain then becomes rewired particularly in the reward, motivation, and memory sections. The individual then ‘needs’ the substance to get that good feeling again and then eventually just to feel ‘normal.’ This deepens the addiction to the substance.

If you or someone you love has a drug addiction issue, there are ways to find help. Pinnacle Treatment Centers has numerous locations with a variety of treatment programs. Call 1-800-782-0520 to learn more.

Headquartered in New Jersey, Pinnacle Treatment Centers is a recognized leader in comprehensive drug and alcohol addiction treatment serving more than 29,000 patients daily in California, Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. With more than 110 community-based locations, Pinnacle provides a full continuum of quality care for adult men and women which includes medically-monitored detoxification/withdrawal management, inpatient/residential treatment, partial hospitalization/care, sober living, intensive and general outpatient programming, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder. For more information, visit or call 800-782-1520.

Facility Spotlight:

Williamsport Family Medical Center

2062 Lycoming Creek Rd., Suite 8
Williamsport, PA 17701

The materials provided on the Pinnacle Blog are for information and educational purposes only. No behavioral health or any other professional services are provided through the Blog and the information obtained through the Blog is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional. If you are in need of medical or behavioral health treatment, please contact a qualified health professional directly, and if you are in need of emergency help, please go to your nearest emergency room or dial 911.