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Is Addiction and Alcoholism Really a Disease?

by Kate
(UK)

My mother was an alcoholic for many years and now that I’m getting older (37) I’m starting to become aware of how alcohol is effecting me and that has me worried about also going down the same path. Despite having an alcoholic mother, I never really understood much about what alcoholism was because we pretty much used to brush these kind of things under the carpet at home when I was young.

In my early teens my mother suddenly went away for a period of about a month or so and everyone just said she’d gone on a holiday (which I thought kind of weird at the time because she didn’t mention anything) and when she came back, I did notice a difference in that she seemed more alive and vibrant, but she always avoided the question of where she was or what she did. I eventually left it, but did eventually discover that she has been to a clinic to be treated for her alcoholism. She died about 5 years after that so I’ve never been able to speak to her about what she went through.

I’ve been reading about the ‘alcoholism genetic’ link, and I’ve also noticed a lot being said about whether alcoholism and drug addiction are in fact a disease. I seem to be getting conflicting reports – some places I read yes and others no. So which is it?

I want to understand what I’m dealing with here because I don’t to go down the same route.

Thanks

Answer:



Hi Kate

The alcoholism as a disease and drug addiction disease concepts have proved to be rather controversial. The majority of the medical profession now readily accept that alcoholism and addiction are diseases, but despite this many still think otherwise, and see it simply as a matter of choice.

One of the key precepts of the disease basis is that you are powerless to control an addiction. The key word there is ‘control.’ Once you are in the throws of an addiction, you can’t control it because it controls you and takes over your life.

But what you can control is making the decision to get help if you are already struggling with an addiction, or making the decision in your case where your drinking hasn’t become problematic despite the genetic link to be very careful about your alcohol consumption or even make the decision to stop drinking now – so that it never can become a problem for you.

Ultimately I believe people make too much of an issue about the disease concept. Whether or not alcoholism is a disease, the only way to overcome it, is to take ownership of it and be responsible for doing what it takes to get sober and stay that way. That means getting it treated and then following a recovery program that will help prevent relapse.



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Yes, I do understand what you mean. From everything I've read I'm glad that alcoholism is regarded as a disease because I think it forces people to take it more seriously. I know I need to stay vigilant about my drinking so that things never spiral out of control.

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