Is Addiction Actually a Disease?


Addiction | Lakehouse Recovery Center









Defining An Addiction

The official term for addiction is “substance use disorder”. The official term for alcoholism is “alcohol use disorder”. These terms are listed in the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual For Mental Disorders, the most recent edition of which is the fifth edition. The DSM as it is more affectionately called, is considered the ultimate guide to what is and isn’t a mental disorder.

For example, sex addiction, or what might be called sex use disorder or a similar name is not listed in the manual. Gambling disorder, on the other hand, is. Despite what is or is not listed in this book, many professionals know what their clients do or do not suffer with.

One of the few reasons sex addiction is not listed in the book is simply because there is a lack of research and a specific kind of data called “empirical data” to demonstrate that the brain reacts in an additive manner to sex (so far they’ve found it reacts more compulsively, leading professionals to call it sexual behavior compulsive disorder). All of these issues are called disorders, not diseases.

There is a difference between the two and choosing which term to refer to addiction and alcoholism as has an effect on treatment. Many want addiction to be referred to as a disease so that it gets the same attention and treatment as other medical issues. Many others warn that addiction should not be called a disease because it isn’t a disease.

A Disorder

This is something that causes confusion, disrupts regular order or arrangement. Defined as an irregularity, a disorder can be a disturbance in mental health. Another word for disorder is one used by twelve step programs: malady. Otherwise, a disorder can be seen as a dysfunction. Addiction is a disorder. The brain gets confused by high quantities of drugs and alcohol and essential systems in the brain do in fact get disordered and become dysfunctional.


On the other hand, refers to a specific organ, part, or system in the body which can create imbalance, toxicity, or “unfavorable environmental factors” which include “illness; sickness; ailment”. A disease is also not restricted to being physical in humans. For example, a disease can happen to a planet and a disease can happen to society. “Any harmful, depraved, or morbid condition, as of the mind or society” is a definition for disease offered by

Addiction, through these definitions, is also a disease. Addiction disrupts the brain, which is an organ. It interferes with the normal functioning of many systems in the brain as well as throughout the body, since the brain controls the rest of the body. When the brain falls “ill” to addiction, it creates a grave sickness and many ailments from which it can be hard to recover.

Addiction is a morbid condition, meaning because addiction has to do with the harmful use of drugs and alcohol, which is unhealthy and can even be disturbing. The brain becomes obsessed with hurting itself, destroying itself, and destroying the body.


If you believe you you or a loved one might be struggling with addiction, there is help available. Lakehouse Recovery Center is here to help guide you through your first year of recovery from detox to aftercare. For information, call us today at:  877.762.3707.


Messages sent through this form are confidential. Required fields are marked with (*).

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.