“Is Addiction Really a Disease?”


Neuroscientist and psychologist Marc Lewis, author of “The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not A Disease,” suggests in the Guardian that treating addiction as if it is a learned pattern of thinking, rather than a medical illness, gives addicts the chance to stay clean. “As a neuroscientist, I recognise that the brain changes with addiction, but I see those changes as an expression of ongoing plasticity in an organ designed to change with strong emotions and repeated experiences. Similar changes have been recorded when people fall in love, become obese, gamble compulsively, or overindulge on the internet,” Lewis writes. “And as a developmental psychologist (my other hat), I see addiction as an attitude or self-concept that grows and crystallises with experience, often initiated by difficulties in childhood or adolescence.”

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addiction a disease


  1. No it is not a disease, it is an obsession.

    I guess calling it a disease was useful trying to combat the prison industrial complex calling it a crime to enrich themselves.

    I was “alcoholic” for a long time and after several relapses or slips over the years I discovered I can just take it or leave it now. I don’t now what is more damaging overall, telling people they can never use again or telling them moderation is possible. Both things damage some people.

    “a learned pattern of thinking and acting – a pattern that can be unlearned.”

    Yep that’s it and I think it takes a good long period of total sobriety to break that pattern and a very healthy respect for the fact that total dependency on alcohol or drugs can come back really quickly if try to successfully moderate and screw it up. Its hard because I still hang around with the recovery crowd and sometimes feel like a phony because I party every few weeks. I CANT suggest they try it or brag about my success cause that would be like treason or something.

    I think recovery is getting better , staying out of dependency and not total abstinence. Total abstinence is what some people need moderation works for others. One size fits all just doesn’t work with addiction recovery and never will.

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  2. I don’t think it’s a disease either. Some people describe addiction as a disease but their recovery doesn’t involve drugs, so I don’t think it matters.

    (Some people in Recovery have their own understanding of “disease”/ as “dis-ease”; and it’s not exactly mainstream).

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  3. It is not. It’s a self-destructive behavioral pattern that is very, very amenable to change (the great majority of people with addiction eventually recover). Telling people with addiction they have a disease is the most demoralizing thing you can do to them.

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