Is Addiction a Disease?

“Throughout much of the last century, scientists studying drug abuse labored in the shadows of powerful myths and misconceptions about the nature of addiction. When science began to study addictive behavior in the 1930s, people addicted to drugs were thought to be morally flawed and lacking in willpower.

Those views shaped society's responses to drug abuse, treating it as a moral failing rather than a health problem, which led to an emphasis on punitive rather than preventative and therapeutic actions. Today, thanks to science, our views and our responses to drug abuse have changed dramatically. Groundbreaking discoveries about the brain have revolutionized our understanding of drug addiction, enabling us to respond effectively to the problem.”6

Addiction is a Treatable Chronic Disease
Numerous studies have demonstrated that chronic substance use changes the brain in fundamental ways that endure long after substance misuse and abuse has ended. NIDA’s Web site states, “Addiction is a real and complex disease similar to other chronic diseases such as type II diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Imaging studies have shown evidence of tissue malfunction in the brains of those with addiction. There is often a genetic factor, meaning it can run in families.” Like other chronic medical conditions, substance use disorders are medical conditions and can be treated effectively.2

Produced by the Northeast ATTC, NAADAC, Central East ATTC, and the ATTC National Office.
Funded in part by a grant from SAMHSA/CSAT and a variety of other sponsors.