Is Alcohol Addiction a Disease?

Published by John Gillen | Last updated: 23rd February 2023 | All Sources

Across the world, whether an alcohol addiction is considered to be a disease or not has been subject to much debate.

Sadly, this has caused many individuals to struggle to understand what an alcohol addiction is and whether it is classed as a disease.

Irrespective of whether alcohol addictions are classified as a disease or not, it should be remembered that alcohol addictions impair the lives of millions of people.

In addition to having various consequences on the life of the individual struggling, alcohol addictions also have multiple ramifications on an individual’s family, friends and ability to maintain a job.

Although many presume that identifying whether alcohol addiction is a disease is relatively simple, there are various factors to consider when asking, “is alcohol addiction a disease?”.

To offer you a greater understanding of whether alcohol addiction is a disease, at Cassiobury Court, we have provided an abundance of information below.


Defining Alcohol Addictions

Various medical professionals and groups such as the American Addiction Centre and the World Health Organisation define alcohol addictions as a chronic, relapsing disease.

Although health professionals have classified alcohol addictions as a disease, others argue that addictions are not diseases.  This is because alcohol addictions are often viewed as self-inflicted illnesses due to the various stigmas surrounding addictions and addicts.

Furthermore, the idea of alcohol addictions has only recently come to light.  In fact, the concept of alcoholism and alcohol addictions as a disease first grew legs in the late 1940s by an academic named EM Jellick.

In other instances, alcohol addictions are not viewed as diseases.  Instead, alcohol addictions are considered to be mental health disorders due to the psychological ramifications they have on an individual’s life.

Many also argue that various factors such as the consequences experienced, amount of alcohol consumed and chance of relapse all dictate whether an alcohol addiction can be classed as a disease.


Defining Disease

Having defined alcohol addictions, understanding how diseases are defined may well contribute to understanding whether alcohol addiction is a disease.

The Cambridge Dictionary suggests that diseases are illnesses that impair people, animals and plants that are caused by infection or a failure of health rather than by an accident. They also define diseases as something that is considered bad in people or in society.

Contributing to this, MedicineNet states that the medical definition of diseases is an illness or sickness that is characterised by specific signs and symptoms.

Upon reviewing how diseases are defined, it could be said that alcohol addictions are classified as diseases.  This is because addictions are illnesses that cause individuals to become somewhat unwell and display various signs and symptoms.

Alcohol addictions could also be classed as a disease because they are not caused by an accident.  Instead, they arise when an individual is unable to control their relationship with alcohol.


Contributing Factors

Although it is clear to see how alcohol addictions could well be considered a disease, as touched on above, many argue that various factors contribute to whether an alcohol addiction is viewed as a disease.

For example, some suggest that alcohol addictions are only thought to be a disease if an individual consumes large quantities of alcohol over a prolonged period.  Others state that diseases are illnesses that are not a result of an accident.

With this in mind, alcohol addictions could well be viewed as a disease.  This is because as individuals begin to rely on alcohol, they consume large quantities of alcohol for an extended period.

Sadly, this eventually impairs an individual’s central and peripheral nervous system, including their brains. The change in the brain’s chemistry due to prolonged exposure to alcohol leads to an inability to stop drinking.

Here, an alcohol addiction develops, causing various signs and symptoms to arise.  An individual battling an alcohol addiction would struggle significantly to overcome their addiction independently and would require professional treatment.

In addition to the above, another contributing factor that often dictates whether an alcohol addiction is a disease surrounds an individual’s ability to recover from an alcohol addiction.

Sadly, less than 20% of people that receive treatment for alcohol addictions are thought to remain sober for more than a year.  This means that 80% of those that have received treatment for an alcohol addiction are prone to relapse.

Many believe that relapses occur because an individual decides that they do not want to live a life without alcohol.  However, this is sadly not true.  Relapses arise when an individual is triggered or struggles to navigate life without the support of alcohol.

In this instance, alcohol addictions are considered to be a disease as an individual that relapses will find that the signs and symptoms of their disease arise once again.


Disease or Disorder: Does It Really Matter?

Although various sources frequently debate whether alcohol addiction is a disease, research provided by academic and health care professionals suggests that alcohol addictions are diseases.

Irrespective of whether an individual personally believes that alcohol addiction is a disease, it cannot be denied that alcohol addictions are severe illnesses that significantly reduce the quality of an individual’s life.

Furthermore, regardless of whether an individual believes that alcohol addictions are diseases or not, the need for treatment cannot be overlooked. Just as any physical and psychological illness or disease requires treatment to alleviate the overall consequences, alcohol addictions do too.


Is Alcohol Addiction A Disease?

While many people worldwide will continue to argue that alcohol addictions are not diseases, at Cassiobury Court, we believe that alcohol addictions are diseases.

As a result, we provide a wealth of rehabilitation treatment to those struggling with alcohol addictions to ensure they have the tools they need to overcome the disease that has hindered their life.


Contact Cassiobury Court Today

If, upon reviewing the above information regarding “is alcohol addiction a disease?”, you believe that you may have developed an alcohol addiction, we would encourage you to contact us today.

If you would like to talk to us and find out more about the support, guidance and treatment we can provide you with, please call 01923 369 161 today.


John Gillen

John Gillen - Author Last updated: 23rd February 2023

John Gillen is a leading addiction treatment expert with over 15 years of experience providing evidence-based treatment methods for individuals throughout the UK. John also co-authors the book, The Secret Disease of Addiction, which delves into how the addictive mind works and what treatment techniques work best.