Addiction as a Disease: What is Addiction?

Have you ever looked down your nose at a drunken or high individual and blamed them for allowing themselves to be in that state? Or have you looked at such an individual and thought there’s no way you could ever end up in that state? A state where you abuse alcohol, marijuana, hallucinogens such as LSD/ PCP, Inhalants such as paint thinners, stimulants such as cocaine/ methamphetamine, opioid pain killers such as oxycodone/ codeine/ heroin or sedatives, hypnotics and tobacco?

The truth is, that drunken or high individual never thought s/he could ever be in such a sorry state. Why? The answer to drug addiction and substance abuse is unfortunately no easy one and it is linked to science and psychology.

For years, most people have associated addiction and substance abuse to morality. It was the notion of most people that having high moral values and standards could solve this problem. However, through scientific advancements, experts have found out that sheer willpower and strong morals alone cannot solve the problem of drug addiction. This is the reason why addiction and substance abuse has ceased to be classified as a social problem but rather a disease.

Whiles drug addiction and substance abuse have been classified as a disease, unlike other diseases, it is tricky to notice the onset of it’s symptoms including strong cravings, risky use or drug effects but like other diseases, it has its fair share of accompanied ailments like mental illness.

So, if drug addiction and substance abuse is a disease, which part of the body does it affect? Well, it’s the brain. Drugs such as those mentioned above changes normal brain functioning and distorts certain roles of the brain when it comes to judgement, learning, behavior control, decision making and memory capabilities.

In the initial stages of this disease, many people take drugs due to curiosity or peer pressure, to relieve stress levels, to feel good or better or to improve performance levels. These drugs are able to give individuals these desired feelings when they become intoxicated. Overtime, the body builds tolerance to these drugs and needs larger amounts to produce the desired effects and this when the drug addiction rears its ugly head.

At this disease state, it is a very long road to recovery but the good thing is that, outpatient programs, hospital interventions, therapeutic environments in addition to willpower can be helpful in managing the condition.


Mine has been great! It was not easy to get through though.

I was invited to a friend’s wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony but I couldn’t wait to leave. I just wanted to dodge the reception; there will be alcohol and I didn’t want to have to go through ‘that’ anymore.

I have struggled to get sober over ten years. I was finally able to achieve total abstinence two years ago. I have also made progress in my relationship with my family, I am more focused at work now and have started dating too. Yes, a lot of progress indeed. I do not want to mess it all up. I do not want to disappoint myself as well as all the people in my life.

The ceremony had finally ended, pictures had been taken. Just as I was making my way out of the church, she saw me; an old friend I had attended high school with. It was great to see her, she looked great. ‘Come with me to the reception’, she said, it’s been such a long time. Let’s catch up’. Before I could say a word, she pulled me along into the crowd, straight into the wine and all the alcohol you could think of.

All of a sudden, I couldn’t breathe, I started having flashbacks of ‘those days’, ‘the bad old days’ when I used to drink without a care in the world. Then she offered me a drink. Spontaneously, without thinking, I took the drink. Just as I was about to drink it, I remembered what my counselor said,

‘before you take another drink, think about the harm that could come out of that momentary satisfaction of a craving, which can never be satisfied with a thousand more of that first drink. Think about all the hard work you have put in so far…..’

With an enormous amount of courage, I handed back the drink to her and said, ‘I am AA, two years sober and I got to go now’. I walked out of there with my head held up high. I focused on the joy of the victory of what I had overcome and not on the guilt of what I could have done. I would not forget it though, I’ll always remember this day, as a great learning experience.

So smile and focus on the little victories of the day because always remember, ‘it could have been worse…….’

By Anonymous


Recovery from drug addiction or any other form of addiction for that matter is a long road which you need to travel for the rest of your life.

Taking it a day at a time is the best course of action. A step at a time, little by little. No rush.

This journey will be full of ”mountains, valleys, rain, sunshine, floods, droughts, famine, accidents and many other trials”. But in the face of all this, perseverance is key!

When you fall, get up and go on!

Never give up, you are capable of doing more than you can imagine. You are strong enough. Keep walking ahead.

Let go of the baggage (shame, guilt, resentment, fear, anger, anxiety and anything that makes you weary), travel light;  you are sure to feel better and be focused on the road so as to be able to avoid the obstacles that lie ahead.

Believe in yourself. Don’t do this alone, seek support from friends and loved ones.