The New York Times published an interesting article on July 10th that is worth a look. It talks about a growing trend to treat addiction as a medical problem rather than a spiritual, or psychological, disorder. The article speaks of addiction as a “disease” which will bother some. I’d prefer the word “condition.” It compares addiction to diabetes, which is interesting because diabetes is often the result of unhealthful behavior, just as is addiction, although both may have genetic factors. Diabetes is also often completely controlled, though not cured, by following certain dietary strictures, which is of course similar to what happens with addiction.
As a practical matter, moving addiction more firmly into a medical category could lead to both opportunities and dangers. On the positive side, it would help in de-stigmatizing addiction and might lead to research on better treatments. But it also could conceivably make the downside of drinking/using seem even less threatening to people than is currently the case. Diabetes suffers from this phenomenon — even as treatments for type 2 diabetes improve, people ignore the evidence linking it to obesity and continue to overeat. Or look at obesity itself — virtually everyone views it as a serious medical problem, but vast numbers of people ignore the evidence and/or resist the obvious solution.