Is Alcoholism a Disease?

Many people have debated the answer to this question for many years. There are a lot of smart people who steadfastly state that alcoholism is a disease. Then there are a whole lot of intelligent folks who claim it is not a disease. For the purpose of this discussion, let's be open minded and consider both sides of the argument before drawing any conclusions.

The Argument For Alcoholism Being a Disease

Over 60 years ago, back in 1956 that alcoholism was declared a disease by the American Medical Association (AMA). The AMA declared that addiction to alcohol (as well as other drugs), is a disease. Since disorder of bodily functions were accompanied by symptoms and were not caused by physical injury, alcoholism qualified as a disease. That, however, did not put an end to the debate.

Those people supporting the argument for often state that it qualifies as a disease by these criteria. Alcolism is progressive, getting worse as time passes. It is symptomatic and fatal if left untreated. In addition, the illness exists in and of itself and is chronic, meaning it does not go away or heal on its own.

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Another supporting factor for it being a disease is the family history effect. Doctors always ask their new patients about their family history with good reason. They want to know what diseases run in the family. People with a history of alcoholism in their families are more likely to develop it themselves.

This debate is so advanced that the two opposing views are often referred to as theories. The modern disease theory of alcoholism says problem drinking is often caused by a disease of the brain. It is characterized by an altered brain structure as well as function. Now let's examine the other viewpoint.

The Argument Against

While there are many people who subscribe to the theory that it is a disease, there are also many who vehemently argue that it is definitely not a disease. These fair minded individuals include those within the medical industry as well as many people outside the industry. The thinking here is that a disease must be “caught” from another individual or biological entity. Some examples include eating bad food or people “getting” cancer or “catching” a cold.

Some people also say that drinking alcohol is a lifestyle choice, not a disease. Therefore overcoming the urge of drinking is as simple as deciding to do so. As simple as that may sound, the reality is that there is a lot more to it than that. Once alcohol abuse has started, it can be quite difficult to stop for many people.

What Do the Alcoholics Believe?

Then there are the addicts themselves who do not agree either. Many alcoholics don't want the bad label of having a disease. But then there are some addicts who view it as a good label. They tend to believe it is not their fault if it is a disease. They want to be considered normal, not diseased.

is alcoholism a disease

So Is Alcoholism a Disease or Not?

This article is not intended to end the debate. It has been raging on for decades and likely won't end anytime soon. To draw any definitive conclusions, one needs to dive much deeper into both sides of the argument and that is beyond the scope of this article. We asked you in the beginning to consider both sides of the argument. If you did, you must acknowledge that there are strong arguments both for and against alcoholism being a disease.

We do know this much without question. Alcoholism does not have a button or a switch that can be turned on or off. Alcohol use disorders grow and develop over time. It is common for it to involve specific preexisting risk factors. These factors make certain people more susceptible to developing alcoholism if they drink alcoholic beverages.

Although we may not have definitively answered the question of is alcoholism a disease, we do know one thing for sure. Alcoholism can be destructive. Lives are affected and sometimes lost as a result. Whether there is a cure for alcoholism or not is another topic we recently examined. We do know there is a way to recover and that is where we come in.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism or any other drug addiction, give us a call. Our compassionate counselors want to help you. We can find the right rehab center that is affordable too.