Dr. Pohl explains if alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases.
Alcoholism and addiction are diseases, unquestionably. AMA believes that; diagnostic and statistical manual of the American Psychiatric Association believes that. FMRI studies confirm that the brain of the addict, the alcoholic, if you will, is different. It’s probably a difference in the way the substance works in the brain. It’s a wiring difference. It’s probably inherited in most people or many people who have the disease of addiction, and the behaviors that are troublesome that seem volitional are the symptoms of that brain disease.
I talked about survival salience. The drug in the brain of the addict has a different effect than it does in the non-addict. So that drug becomes more important than the things that we really associate with well being like eating and sleeping and having sex and having relationships and really taking self care.
Addiction is a disease, and behaviors are symptoms of the disease. That doesn’t mean that somebody isn’t responsible for their behavior under the influence of the disease. People have to take responsibility, and one of the steps in the 12-step programs is seeing who I harmed and making amends for the harms that I have done. That doesn’t come early, though.
So if you love somebody who has addiction, I encourage you to be patient with that person while he or she gets their life back on track. And it may take months, it may take a year or more. Eventually they need to really account for their behavior. If they stole money, if they broke your heart, if they disappointed you, they owe you an amend, you know. That’s part of the recovery process for somebody who has addiction is really getting better. It’s probably not going to come as soon as you might like, though.
About Dr. Mel Pohl, M.D.:
Dr. Mel Pohl, M.D., is a Board Certified Family Practitioner. He is the Vice President of Medical Affairs and the Medical Director at the Las Vegas Recovery Center (LVRC), the only private, freestanding, medically managed inpatient detoxification and addiction treatment facility in Las Vegas, Nevada.