Summary and Analysis

Does identifying addiction as a disease adversely affect the thinking of either those who are addicted or those who aren’t? In a frank review that doesn’t spare his own feelings or excuse his own history of addiction, Christoper Dale unflinchingly looks at the ways categorizing addiction as a disease ends up being more destructive than helpful. 

He acknowledges that identifying addiction as a disease works against the addict himself or herself. While it may make for a gentler entry into sobriety (by relieving some of the unbearable shame faced in those first days), that benefit may be short-lived. 

Dr. Dale notes, “insisting addiction is a capital-D Disease gives addicts an out that, for someone feeling the remorse of early sobriety, is far too tempting to take.” He refers to the “type of honest introspection necessary for sober progress” that may be escaped if an addict considers only that he has a brain disease. 

It can also affect the thinking of those who have never been addicted who can’t quite lump addicts in with those suffering from genetically-based disabilities. It further influences the attitudes of those who determine what conditions our health insurance will cover. We must cover all the impacts of this categorization before we consider this issue a closed topic. 

Excerpted from Addiction Recovery eBulletin

To disease, or not to disease? In addiction circles, that is still the controversial question, despite its official, decades-long recognition as such by the American Medical Association (AMA).

Notably, several other Western democracies don’t formally classify addiction as a disease – even though the most prolific treatment for addiction, 12 Step programs, are openly recognized and encouraged. Let’s discuss why “disease” is one word that should be abandoned from addiction terminology.

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