Written By:Amber Hollingsworth,LPC
This is probably the most common question that I get, and here is the answer….
YES IT IS A DISEASE!
I would love to go into all the neurobiology of addiction (it is truly fascinating), but I don’t think I could really convey the information in this format, so I am going to give you the basics of why addiction is really a disease.
Addiction/Alcoholism changes the structures of the brain (particularly acting on the motivation center). This is why the problem is so difficult to deal with. Things that motivate regular people will not motivate an addicted person. This is one of the easiest ways to know if it is an addiction or just a “phase”.
If an individual seems to be experiencing negative consequences due to their substance use, and they just keep doing it anyway, then addiction could most definitely be in effect. This is probably the thing that makes families the craziest! You can’t punish it away, you can’t threaten it away, you can’t bribe it away so basically nothing seems to work.
I mean think about it, the most basic drives such as surviving and protecting our children get over-ruled by addictive disease. The evidence that makes me absolutely certain that addiction/alcoholism is a disease is watching people of all ages, backgrounds, races, and social status go through the stages of addiction and recovery.
You can pretty much predict the type of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to expect out of an individual with this disease (no matter what “type of person” they really are). And conversely, when you get a person sober, it is like watching a miracle happen. Just getting the drugs and alcohol out of their system for about a month (it doesn’t matter why they get sober), and you will see the most remarkable change in thinking and behavior. This is the part of my job that gives me the most joy. It is such an honor to get to witness this miraculous shift.
For more information on the science of addiction check out our YouTube channel.