4 Reasons Addiction Is Considered a Disease

Addiction to drugs like cocaine is a chronic disease, which affects the brain’s reward, motivation, memory and other related circuitry areas.  Having a disruption in these circuits can lead to changes in an individual’s biological, psychological, social and spiritual well being. Addiction is typically characterized by an individual’s inability to abstain from drug use, lack of control of their behavior, cravings and unwillingness to see to see how their behavior and relationships have been affected by their cocaine addiction. Like numerous other diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without the proper form of treatment or involvement in recovery activities, one’s addiction can progress to a point the individual suffers from a disability, either mental or physical, or even premature death.[1]

The disease of addiction is both chronic and organic. The brain becomes its target, which is why it is so common for an individual to relapse and enter remission. Although the effects of cocaine addiction can baffle others and holds a powerful grip on the addict, if treated one day at a time, there is hope for the addict as long as he is willing to take the proper first steps.

Why Is Addiction Classified as a Disease?

Addiction impacts an individual’s entire well being, both mentally and physically. Some of the effects are short-term while others remain permanent or even progress to life threatening. Depending on the severity of one’s addiction, side effects may be able to be treated or successfully managed.  Included in the following are some examples on four reasons addiction is considered a disease:

  • Targets the brain
  • Typically requires treatment
  • Chronic treatment
  • Individual has to adapt

Addiction to drugs like cocaine specifically targets an area referred to as the mid brain where it causes regulatory dysfunction of neurotransmitters called dopamine. This effect is seen in every cocaine addict who is known to suffer with the disease of dependence where they experience loss of control, intense cravings and persistence use despite negative consequences caused by their addiction. Many addicts have been accused of being selfish because they choose to act in a way that rewards them since that specific part of the brain that addict affects is in the reward and/or pleasure center. An addict’s self-gratifying behaviors has lead to inappropriate judgment, bringing shame and embarrassment to both themselves and their loved ones. Family is often most affected by their loved one’s addiction because the addict continuously pushes boundaries to help feed their addiction. Addicts often focus so much on their addiction that they cast aside their jobs, family’s health and marriage.

Decades ago both scientific and medical communities did not know much about addiction and how it affects the brain as compared to the information they know today. Part of what has been learned is that for the millions struggling with addiction, overcoming it is not just about a lack of willpower, faith or discipline but rather about how the addict’s brain was injured and how their brain chemistry was physically altered. This has led scientific communities along with NIDA and other agencies and organizations to acknowledge that addiction is both a chronic and progressive brain disease. This means treating addiction will typically involve medicine just like any other disease. Although therapy is typically necessary for recovery, it does not heal an addict’s brain which is why many recovering addicts struggle with sobriety and relapse.

Like all chronic forms of treatment and regardless of the disease being treated, they usually are able to remove or reduce most symptoms of the disease. However, they are not able to have an impact on the root cause of the disease meaning as long as the individual remains in treatment, they can continue to have their symptoms reduced.  However, if they stop treatment before they are ready, the symptoms can immediately return. Unfortunately, no matter what treatment an addict seeks, the treatments will not return the addict back to normal or to his pre-addiction self.

With repeated and chronic cocaine use and abuse, long term changes in the brain’s reward system along with other brain systems often leads to addiction. With repetitive use, the user builds a tolerance towards cocaine where addicts report that they seek yet fail to achieve the same desired effects as their first time use or exposure. In most cases, users will continue to increase their doses in order to experience a more euphoric high but while doing so risk developing psychological or physiological effects.

Similar to the effects of other diseases, such as diabetes, the individual has to adapt his new lifestyle to his disease meaning his diet must be adjusted, medication taken when necessary and continued treatment sought if needed. If the individual’s addiction caused long-term or even permanent side effects, the addict must learn how to cope with these and how to move past them.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction to cocaine and is considering seeking treatment for addiction, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our highly trained and professional counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer your addiction questions and help you find the best treatment for your condition. One call can save your life, so call us today!


[1] http://www.asam.org/for-the-public/definition-of-addiction, ASAM Board of Directors, Definition of Addiction, 10/22/2015, 04/19/2011.

[2] http://www.attcnetwork.org/explore/priorityareas/science/disease/chronic.asp, ATTC, Treating Addiction as a Chronic Disorder, 10/22/2015, 2011

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