Drug Addiction: A Mental Illness or Not?
Drug Addiction: A Mental Illness or Not?
According to NIDA (2018), drug addiction can be referred to as an enduring and relapsing disorder characterized by an individual having compulsive drug-seeking, sustained use of a substance in spite of its harmful consequences and enduring changes in the brain. For the past century, many scientists who focused on drug use and drugs relied on powerful myths and misconceptions regarding the nature of addiction. In the 1930s, scholars regarded people who had an addiction as morally flawed individuals who lacked willpower (Volkow, 2020). Volkow (2020) argues that an addiction is just another disease since it disrupts the normal functioning of an organ, and it can be treated and preventable just as other mental health diseases. If left untreated, it might lead to harmful outcomes. On the other hand, Holden (2012, p. 679) argues that otherwise, that addiction does meet the presence of “primary measurable deviation from the physiologic and anatomical norm.” He argues that a mental disease such as schizophrenia will not remit if secluded, whereas an alcoholic is automatically cured with no access to alcohol. With these misconceptions, some scholars still argue that drug addiction is not a mental illness/disease due to its nature. This paper will provide an argument for drug addiction as a mental disorder and an argument against drug addiction being a mental disorder.
Drug Addiction as a Mental Illness
Those who claim that drug addiction is a mental illness support their assumption through DSM 5’s definition. The updated DSM replaced substance abuse and substance dependence categories into a solitary category, “substance abuse disorder,” and classified the category into the salient “mild, moderate, and severe” levels just as other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. Furthermore, the DSM 5 asserts that those symptoms that are associated with substance abuse disorder include “fall into four major groupings: impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and pharmacological criteria (i.e., tolerance and withdrawal)” (NIDA, 2018b). Additionally, Sussman and Sussman (2011) conducted a research review to define addiction. They found that it has five common elements, just like mental illness. These include “preoccupation with the behaviour, feeling different, temporary satiation, loss of control, and negative consequences” (Sussman & Sussman, 2011).
Drug Addiction: Not A Mental Illness/ Disease
In addition to Holden’s (2012, p. 679) assumptions, Hall et al. (2015) critique NIDA’s explanation of addiction by arguing that the NIDA’s definition is not supported by “animal and neuroimaging evidence to an extent to which its proponents claim.” The authors assert that the NIDA’s brain disease model is yet to deliver much more effective addiction treatment. Its effects on public policies towards individuals with drug addiction and drugs have been diffident. Holden (2012, p. 679) responded to an article that claimed addiction is a disease. He concluded that it does not meet the disease criteria and proposes om destigmatizing it to eliminate any sense of individual responsibility.
The layman’s definition of mental illness relates to a condition that causes a serious disorder in one’s behaviour and thinking. Case in point, mental illness presents health conditions that can change emotions, thinking, and behaviour or a combination of both. I believe that drug addiction is a mental illness because one will develop a compulsive drug-seeking behaviour to harmful drugs that will change their emotions, behaviour, and thinking(Is Drug Addiction a Mental Illness? 2021). I agree with the DSM 5 that substance abuse disorder is a disease that needs to be treated despite its complexity.
Hall, W., Carter, A., & Forlini, C. (2015). The Brain Disease Model of Addiction: Is it supported by the evidence and has it delivered on its promises? The Lancet Psychiatry, 2(1), 105–110. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(14)00126-6
Holden, T. (2012). Addiction is not a disease. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, 184(6), 679. https://doi.org/10.1503/CMAJ.112-2033
Is Drug Addiction a Mental Illness? (2021, October). Coalition for a Drug-Free Clermont County. https://drugfreeclermont.org/is-drug-addiction-a-mental-illness/
NIDA. (2018a, July). The Science of Drug Use and Addiction: The Basics. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/science-drug-use-addiction-basics
NIDA. (2018b, July). The Science of Drug Use and Addiction: The Basics. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/science-drug-use-addiction-basics
Sussman, S., & Sussman, A. N. (2011). Considering the Definition of Addiction. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 8(10), 4025–4038. https://doi.org/10.3390/IJERPH8104025
Volkow, N. D. (2020, July). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/preface