So, Is Addiction a Disease?

Dr. Ellis discusses how understanding alcoholism as a disease defuses shame, blame, and guilt, and how the family can begin to view the loved one not as a bad person who needs to be shunned or censured, but as a sick person who needs to be treated.

We've waded through a lot of complicated material to arrive at a simple answer:

Yes Addiction is a Disease.

Dr. Kevin McCauley offers this definition of addiction as a disease:

Addiction is a combined genetic and stress-induced defect in the midbrain and prefrontal cortex dopamine/glutamate reward-learning system, resulting in symptoms of decreased functioning, namely:

Loss of control
Persistent use of the drug/behavior despite negative consequences.

Understanding the devastating effects of addiction on the brain should help you understand why "choice" alone is inadequate.

In fact, you can take away alcohol from the alcoholic and all you'll have is an angry, irritable, unhappy alcoholic. He will still crave alcohol, and that is truly a miserable experience.

Treatment gets to the underlying brain dysfunctions. It helps the alcoholic manage stress. The normal pleasure circuitry comes back "online." True freedom of choice will be restored.

Remember why consideration of this question is so important. An intervention can be an emotionally charged event, but if the alcoholic senses genuine caring then chances of success are much higher. The shift we're looking for initially in an intervention is to view the alcoholic as a patient, in need of treatment, and a person deserving of love.