Is Addiction a Disease?

By the time a person begins to consider entering treatment for drug addiction, their life has generally taken a turn for the worse. Many addicts and alcoholics lose jobs, relationships and countless sums of money. The physical symptoms, such as increased drug tolerance and changes in brain chemistry, demonstrate that addiction is a disease.

On top of social and financial consequences, they may face legal consequences as well. In a few cases, the addict may even suffer from deteriorating health as a result of internal damage or infectious diseases. Due to the stigmatized nature of the consequences, however, many believe addiction to be a moral failing. We do not often think of a disease as the cause of broken trust and unfulfilled career ambitions. Nonetheless, treating addiction as a disease is highly important if we wish to break through the external symptoms of the problem and treat the underlying causes.

Why We Say Addiction is a Disease

Alcoholism and drug addiction are not spread by infectious agents, nor are they biologically degenerative in the same sense as diseases such as Alzheimer’s. For these reasons, many reject the disease model of addiction. The undeniable truth, however, is that addiction results from a combination of genetic, biological and environmental factors that combine to create a progressive condition.

Genetics play a large role in the development of addiction. According to genetic studies, addiction is heritable at rates that range from moderate to high depending upon the subject. There are identifiable genetic markers that can account for a predisposition toward addictive behavior, particularly from young to middle adulthood. While the development of the disease still depends upon exposure to and volitional use of addictive substances, genetics greatly increase the risk of continued use after the initial exposure has occurred.

As use continues, the progressive aspects of the disease come into play. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that continued substance abuse erodes the user’s self-control. A chronic condition, addiction is a disease characterized by compulsive behaviors that often appear baffling to outsiders who do not understand the neurological implications of repeated drug use. The user’s sense of judgment becomes greatly diminished, and the threat of serious consequences no longer play a strong role in their decisions.

Furthermore, as dopamine floods the brain’s reward center, the receptors become damaged. The user requires more of their chosen substance in order to achieve the same effects, leading to a higher frequency of use. They become locked in a cycle of repetitive drug-seeking behaviors from which it is difficult to escape.

Treating the Causes and Symptoms of Addiction

At Foundations Wellness Center, we focus strongly on individualized care. We account for the environmental factors that played a role in each person’s addiction, and we help them develop the relapse prevention tools that will personally benefit them the most. Since many addicts and alcoholics suffer from co-occurring disorders, we also provide dual diagnosis care that accounts for the wide variety of mental health issues that may play a role in the individual’s substance use.

Due to the unique circumstances of every person’s situation, not all clients require the same continuum of care. We offer multiple levels of treatment, placing clients according to their needs. In addition, we provide a number of program tracks that allow clients to pursue a form of recovery that will work best for them. Faith-based treatment, trauma resolution, family wellness, employee assistance—these are all examples of specific programs that may benefit some individuals more than others. Our primary goal is to ensure long-term recovery; therefore, we feel that it benefits our clients to be placed on a track that will fulfill their individual needs.

Addiction is a disease, but, fortunately, it is highly treatable. If you are interested in a program that will seek to uncover and treat the underlying causes of substance abuse, contact us today for more information on our various program features. Foundations does more than simply cover up the symptoms. We provide healing from the inside out.


Justin Baksh

Chief Clinical Officer

Meet Justin Baksh, MS, LMHC, LPC, MCAP, the Chief Clinical Officer of Foundations Wellness Center. A former United States Marine, Justin holds a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and is dually licensed in Florida and Pennsylvania. He also has attained the Certified Master’s Level Addiction Professional credential.

He has over 10 years of experience working with substance use and polysubstance use disorders, as well as anxiety, depression, life stressors, life transitions, trauma, PTSD, ADHD, ADD, OCD, and a variety of other disorders using cognitive behavioral therapy, DBT, biofeedback, strength-based and solution-based modalities.