Alcoholism and drug addiction are two maladies that have severely afflicted scores of people across the globe. Now, whether these two should be categorized under diseases like cancer or heart disease is a debate that seems to rage on and create great controversy.

The medical community today generally seem to support the view that addictions should be classified as a disease, as they meet the criteria that are necessary to term it as such. These criteria are:

1. Primary
2. Progressive
3. Chronic
4. Fatal

Alcoholism and drug addiction definitely satisfy all the above mentioned criteria, and that is the basic reason why rehabilitation programs and recovery support groups like AA and NA support this viewpoint.

But those that oppose this point of view feel that addictions should not be categorized in the same way as diseases like cancer - because using drugs or alcohol is a matter of choice, and so should an addiction arise it is effectively self-induced - whereas cancer and other diseases afflict the person without awareness and the same level of choice involved. So by categorizing alcoholism and drug addictions as diseases, they feel it makes it too easy for those struggling with an addiction to shirk taking any kind of responsibility for their state and actions.

However, should it even matter what belief you hold on the subject? Whether or not addiction is classified as a disease, in both cases the addict has to undergo the same process in order to successfully achieve lasting sobriety, i.e. receive the right support or help, get appropriate treatment and follow a proven recovery program. Everything else becomes immaterial provided the rehabilitative process is diligently followed.

I allow visitors to my website to provide their views and opinions remain divided. Here are a few snippets:

One person had the following to say: “The drug addict has the ability to overcome his affliction with the help of various groups and making use of his grit and determination. But, that is not the case in fatal diseases like cancer. Even if you go in for a specialized treatment, in many cases, you cannot avoid death despite going through the painful chemotherapies and specialized treatments. Self-control or self-will does not have any role to play and whether a person will regain full health always remains a question.”

Another, a recovering alcoholic, said this: “When addiction is classified under disease it facilitates the insurance carriers to cover all the treatment costs that one incurs while getting treated. The insurance companies will definitely not pay for treating something like a weakness of character. Once it is categorized as a disease, the alcoholics will be saved from self-blame and need not suffer from self loathe. They can easily place the cause of excessive and obsessive drinking on an illness rather than blaming their own self.”

Another visitor, a former alcoholic, shares his insightful perspective and says: “I feel that it is definitely dis-ease…lack of ease and peace. Once you face the problem, work through the 12 steps, address all the nutritional and chemical imbalances that have taken toll over your body and connect to the spiritual path, alcohol will cease to have any control or power over you. When you quit looking at it as a disease that had control over you, and focus in totality only on getting healthy in mind, body and spirit, true healing and peace will set in.”

So if even among those of us who have suffered from addiction opinions are divided as to whether it’s a disease or not, my assertion remains, ‘Should it really matter?’ The critical thing is to find effective ways to get those who need it, the help they so desperately need.

Author's Bio: 

C-P Lehman, owner and editor of uses his almost 9 years of sobriety to provide support and advice on his website. He allows you to provide your opinion on this matter on the Alcoholism Disease Page of his website - or to ask questions and receive support on the Drug and Alcohol Addiction Forum. He also has a Free E-Course to which you can subscribe and has written the book, Addiction Uncovered.