Living for the Glory of God ~ Vivir para la Gloria de Dios

Why We Shouldn’t Identify Addiction As A Disease

The general biology of humans is phenomenal. The discovery of DNA alone is incredibly changed how we understand mankind. Yet, what should draw us closer to God has been exploited to draw us away from God.  These days everything is about the biology or makeup of a person. DNA, the brain’s circuit system, and other biological aspects are identified as the root causes for who we are and what we do. It is reported that they result in how we behave, the diseases we have, and even our inclinations.
Among the list of offenses that biology finds itself blamed for is addiction. Addiction is now labeled as a disease, and because it is the result of one’s chemical makeup, the individual no longer has the ability to conquer it. The theory often presented is that there are imbalances in the brain that cause the addiction. Unfortunately, it seems that most come to this research with a bias towards this without considering whether or not such differences are the cause or the result of addiction. The distinction is critical and the consequences of mislabeling are catastrophic. Therefore, it is essential that we evaluate our criteria for labeling addiction as a disease. Instead, we should remove this label and replace it with something far more influential.
While concerned about the scientific methods used to label addiction as a disease, the current discussion forces us to also consider the social implications of such a label. Unfortunately, by labeling addiction as a disease, there are three aspects that need to be considered:
  • It Takes Away Control: First, when addiction is classified as a disease it takes away control. Because it is considered a biological issue, the indication is that an individual has no ability to control who they are, what they are, or what they do. For the addiction then, that is simply who the person is and there is nothing that he or she can do about that.
  • It Takes Away Responsibility: Additionally, when control is withdrawn, so is the responsibility. Human reasoning suggests that if a person lacks the ability to control any of these factors, then they also do not bear the responsibility for those actions his or hers to bear. This becomes a great excuse for many people to abuse whatever they desire without bearing the responsibilities for them.
  • It Takes Away Hope: Finally, the label of addiction takes away a person’s hope. Because there is no control, one cannot expect to defeat the addiction and simply must continue through life without it. It abolishes hope and replaces it with complacency.
The consequences of labeling addiction as a disease then, are debilitating.
Labeling addiction as a disease has severe consequences and therefore necessitates that we do something different. Quite simply, there is only one thing that can be done and that is to confront and conquer with the gospel. Using the gospel to confront addiction allows us to do the following:
  • Restore Control: The gospel indicates that people have the power to conquer sin and its destructive consequences. More specifically, the gospel does not give man the power to conquer addiction, but rather, it surrenders control to God to overcome it.
  • Restore Responsibility: Additionally, the gospel acknowledges one’s responsibility for his or her own choices. Certainly, this aspect of the gospel is difficult and most desire to avoid it, however, acceptance of responsibility causes growth and allows for restoration. A lack of responsibility generates a society a complacent, indifferent, and immoral culture, while the gospel generates a compassionate, enduring, and growing culture.
  • Restore Hope: Finally, the gospel brings hope. It’s a hope of overcoming something as debilitating as addiction. It also goes further, because it brings hope not merely in satisfaction in this life, but satisfaction in an eternal life.
The gospel offers a solution where the secular world has taken it away. Therefore, the best thing to offer those struggling is the message of God and salvation through His Son.

Taking away the label of disease for addiction is not a hard-hearted act, but instead is meant to be an act of love by which we encourage others. In no way should we minimize the struggle that those dealing with addiction. Instead, we come to their aide by sharing the truth of the gospel. The process may be slow and difficult, and yet, the focus is not merely the restoration of a physical life, but the redemption of a spiritual one. Therefore, while the world is quick to apply labels, deny the need for a Savior, and seeks independence, we need to infuse our culture with more of the gospel, not less of it.

Photo “Addiction” courtesy of user C.P. and Flickr.

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