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In our previous post, we defined broadly ‘addiction’. A follow up question that arises: “Is addiction a disease?” What are the symptoms/indications? What causes addiction? How is it dangerous? Is it treatable?

First, let’s understand what a disease means. According to a dictionary definition of disease, it’s “a condition….that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms.” In short, a disease is a long-lasting condition that can be controlled but not cured.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse defines addiction as a “chronic relapsing brain disease.” The American Society of of Abuse Medicine defines addiction as “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.”

Drugs are substances, either naturally occurring or synthetic that alter a person’s emotional and physical state. While drugs are used to treat or prevent diseases, some people use them to experience a changed emotional state. Use leads to abuse sooner than later,which manifests as addiction and disease.



Alchohol as a chronic disease is characterised by uncontrolled drinking and relentless thoughts about consumption of alcohol. Like drugs, alcoholics are unable to control drinking due to both a physical & emotional dependence.

As chronic diseases, substance addiction has to be treated, managed and monitored over a lifetime. If left untreated, addiction may lead to liver disease, stroke and an untimely death.

The following four symptoms are common to both types of addiction:

– Craving via overpowering urges;
– Loss of Control i.e being unable to stop;
– Dependence: the need to maintain high levels of drugs in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms like nausea, sweating, shaking, tremors;
– Tolerance: usage increases over time to maintain the ‘high’ sensation.

In our next post, we will touch upon the warning signs of alcohol & drug addiction. Keep reading, stay tuned!

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