Is Alcoholism a Disease?

Is alcoholism a disease?

Alcoholism is a toxic ailment that afflicts millions of people worldwide. While there has been confirmation that people have some sort of genetic predisposition to alcoholism, some take things a step further and pronounce alcoholism a disease of the brain. While alcoholism is widely identified as an illness, determining whether alcoholism qualifies as a disease is a whole different story. Let's examine the theory around calling alcoholism a disease, and the merits of the theory.

What is a Disease?

Before we determine if alcoholism is a disease, it is important to identify the qualifications for a disease. A disease is the presence of an abnormal condition that is not the result of an outside force, as this would be an injury. A disease also features a disorder in the structure or function of an individual's bodily functions.

The Disease Theory of Alcoholism

The disease theory of alcoholism compares the treatment and response to treatment of alcoholics with those suffering from other diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. They found that when it came to variables such as genetic predisposition, personality, and environmental factors the reaction was comparable between the illnesses and alcoholism. This caused those who adhere to this theory to conclude that alcoholism is a medical illness and disease.

Genetics and Alcoholism

While there is evidence of a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, proponents of the disease theory of alcoholism believe genetics is one of the strongest factors when it comes to alcoholism. They point to a variety of studies that show a correlation between genetics and alcoholism, as well as studies with twins and adoption studies. The adoption study is of particular interest.

In the studies, children who were separated from their biological parents and were adopted were surveyed on their alcohol use. The study found that sons of alcoholic biological fathers were more likely to develop issues with alcohol, even if the adopted parents are not alcoholics.  These studies are the basis for the theory that alcoholism is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.

The Counterargument to Alcoholism as a Disease

The main counterargument to alcoholism as a disease is the fact that alcoholics can recover and then drink in moderation. If alcohol was indeed a genetic disease, how would alcoholics be able to have a few drinks and stop? This led some to conclude alcohol consumption is a bad habit, not a disease. Also, many critics of alcoholism as a disease feels this takes a lot of responsibility off of the person with alcohol issues, as it is their choice to begin and continue drinking. They argue that unlike other diseases, alcoholism can be resolved by force of will and determination.

Alcoholism Treatment in San Diego at The Pearson Center

Regardless of whether alcoholism is a disease or not, the battle with alcohol is not one that should be conducted alone. The Pearson Center for Alcoholism and Addiction Research in San Diego specializes in developing treatments to help alcoholics find sobriety through clinical research studies. We are currently running research studies for those with drinking problems and wish to quit and for regular drinkers with no intention to quit. If you are interested in either of these studies, contact us today by giving us a call at (858) 784-7867.