Why Addiction is a Disease

Our "Mind" represents the real-time, instantaneous, complex interactions of brain chemistry, thinking, feeling, behaviors and experience.

In people who are vulnerable to developing the disease of addiction, the repeated alteration of thinking, feeling and brain chemistry through the reinforcing use of substances and behaviors, may eventually result in permanent changes in the function of certain parts of their brain and, therefore, their Mind also.

These changes in the Mind promote continuing these activities, and addiction has occurred when they do continue but the individual is unable to manage the development of negative circumstances or consequences associated with them (health, family, job, financial, legal, etc.).

The vulnerability to developing the disease of addiction is unique to each person, determined by a complex combination of genetics and multiple environmental factors. However, the single strongest risk factor is a positive family history.

The disease of addiction includes these 4 basic characteristics:

  1. Physical compulsion to continue the activity while engaged in it;
  2. Mental obsession about the activity whether engaged in it or not;
  3. Justitying the re-engaging in the activity despite the prior negative effects;
  4. Denial that 1, 2 or 3 are present.

Therefore, addiction is a brain disease of thinking and feeling expressed in behaviors. Individuals lose the ability to regulate their behaviors.

This is why detoxification is only the first step in treatment, and not successful when used as the whole treatment.

Recovery from addiction is also characterized by a vulnerability to "relapse," or a re-igniting of the active form of the disease, with the resumption of harmful substance use and behaviors.