The answer is that once addiction takes hold, it gets to be a disease. For example, if you are pre-diabetic and don’t do the things you should, you become a diabetic. If you continue to put dependency-causing chemicals into your body, you become an addict.
Then when you are addicted, you have a brain disease. This brain disease, like many other illnesses, can be handled, treated, managed, arrested, but not cured.
Many people say that since this disease is self-inflicted, it, therefore, should not be classified as a disease. But nonetheless, self-inflicted or not, it becomes a disease. A progressive disease, life-threatening. Because addiction is a brain chemical disorder, it causes uncontrollable loss of behavior. What is doesn’t mean is that the addict has no responsibility. Ultimately the addict is responsible for choosing recovery over addiction and doing whatever it takes to help themselves. Even though relapse is fairly common, the addict cannot stop trying. Many other chronic illnesses also have relapse rates, and that does not mean that any single failure is a final failure.
Many people who suffer from all kinds of diseases besides addiction are not sympathetic and outright offended to call anything a disease that a person caused to themselves. “If I knew there was a chance I could get cancer by a certain behavior, I would stop that behavior immediately, so an addict gets no sympathy from me. Is it a disease if you do it to yourself?” If you volunteered to get cancer and then you got cancer, would I be sympathetic? Probably not. But here is the but: no matter how a disease is developed, once you have it, it needs treatment. At some point the, body loses control and the disease becomes chronic.
In any event, the medical community considers addiction to be a brain disease and not a lack of will power. Just like any disease, we cannot wish it away. But what we can do is treat it and start to more actively teach about prevention in the same way cigarette smokers were educated and then subjected to social intolerance about their habit.
Here are some definitions for clarification. One from WebMD’s medical dictionary states, “An addiction is an interruption, cessation, or disorder of a body, system, or organ structure or function.”
The following associations acknowledge addiction as a disease: the World Health Organization (WHO), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Psychiatric Association.
So yes, addiction is a disease, and fortunately, there is help. Go. Get. It.