Drug and alcohol use is responsible for at least tens of thousands of people losing their lives each year in the United States alone. This is due to not only overdoses, but also other addiction-related tragedies and illnesses.

There are many ways to define addiction, although some may not apply to everyone. It really is a complex issue with so many factors – from physical to mental and social. Here is one way that addiction is described by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. These brain changes can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a “relapsing” disease—people in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug.

It’s common for a person to relapse, but relapse doesn’t mean that treatment doesn’t work. As with other chronic health conditions, treatment should be ongoing and should be adjusted based on how the patient responds. Treatment plans need to be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.

This can really be looked at in a few ways. One of them is keeping in mind that progress and goal setting are good, and seeking out the positive aspects of addiction treatment and recovery can be more helpful than pointing out flaws. This is one reason why we don’t completely agree with the disease model of addiction treatment, because regardless of what it is called, evidence proves that people can recover and live the rest of their lives symptom-free.

What is an Addict?

Despite the tradition of people in recovery being identified as an addict or alcoholic, the industry as a whole is starting to shy away from using these labels. This is in part because they can have more of a derogatory meaning rather than seeing them as what they are – real people.

Another reason is because there is increasing recognition that not everyone an be lumped into that category, so instead there are varying levels of substance use disorders. This includes people who are occasional users to binge users, heavy users, daily users, etc.

We agree that people should be viewed as people and not as a label of an addict or alcoholic. Despite terminology to describe the behaviors associated with their drug and alcohol use, we like to focus more on what is right with people than what is wrong with them. Treatment goals are as much about improving the overall quality and experience of life as they are about reducing or ceasing alcohol or drug use.