Many treatment centers and addiction professionals have championed the idea of addiction as a disease rather than a moral failing. And with more people than ever aware of the struggles of addiction, learned through personal or secondary experience or the media, this view has started to permeate the general public’s perspective on addiction.
However, some experts in the addiction community have recently begun to speak out about an alternative view: that addiction isn’t a disease, but rather a series of repeated behaviors that can be altered through willpower and motivation to bring an individual away from rock bottom.
George F. Koob, director of the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse, asserted that addiction is a disease and should be treated like other mental health issues, using medication and behavioral treatments.
Koob also likened the general view of addiction in 2016 to public opinion of mental health issues decades ago, when people were beginning to accept that things like depression were truly a disease and that struggling individuals needed medical care and compassion.
Alternatively, Marc Lewis, an author and professor of developmental psychology at Radboud University in the Netherlands, claimed that individuals struggling with addiction exhibit only a series of repeated behaviors, not a disease. From this perspective, addiction can only be treated by changing these behaviors through a combination of effort, willpower, and support from others.
Both Lewis and Koob agreed that addiction can ensnare anyone, from regular soccer moms to highly-regarded academic scholars.