Addiction, clinically referred to as a substance use disorder, is a complex disease of the brain and body that involves compulsive use of one or more substances despite serious health and social consequences. It disrupts regions of the brain that are responsible for reward, motivation, learning, judgement, and memory.
What is a disease?
Simply put, a disease is a medical condition that prevents the body from functioning normally, Disease such as type one diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other chronic conditions have effects that affect individuals on some level for their entire lives. Similarly, addiction can have long term effects on all areas of living.
Many diseases are considered uncurable, but people do experience “remission” and alleviation of disease are symptoms, substance use disorder follows a pattern. Individuals who have have experienced a substance use disorder will always be at risk of relapse and may share the predilection for substance misuse with their children. Just like any other disease, addiction requires ongoing care or “check-ups” to prevent relapse.
The Disease Model of Addiction
The science behind addiction has come a long way in the past 20 years along with the growing prevalence of substance use disorders only affect the weak-willed. They see it as a character flaw instead of an actual disease.
However, when looking more closely at the science explaining the way substance misuse affects the human brain, it’s undeniable that it acts and affects people in the same way as many other diseases. It is important to understand this while participating in recovery. This is why addiction is defined as a disease by most medical organizations, including the Canadian Medical Association.