Alcoholism is a disease.
The field of medicine has classified addiction in a number of ways through the years and is working to better define exactly what alcoholism/addiction is. Later this year, the DSM-5 will be introduced which will rightly reclassify drug and alcohol dependence as addiction, as well as introduce new entries for behavioral addictions such as gambling or sex addiction.
Next year, ICD-10 codes are slated to take the place of ICD-9 codes currently in use, with a whole section (F10-F19) dedicated to alcohol and drug related disorders. Under the current system, alcoholism is very generically described. Under the new system, an alcoholic in recovery will be specified by the diagnostic code F10.21 (while I will also fall under F11.21 & F17.211).
Alcoholics Anonymous considers it a three-fold illness as outlined in “The Doctor’s Opinion.” Dr. Silkworth describes alcoholism as an allergy and outlines the physical craving, the mental obsession and the spiritual malady which make up the disease, differentiating the alcoholic from the normal drinker. Perhaps, one of these days, modern medicine will catch up with what Dr. Silkworth discovered in the 1930s.
Mitch Hedberg probably said it best, “Alcoholism is a disease, but it’s the only one you can get yelled at for having.” You would not tell a diabetic they just don’t have enough willpower to make their pancreas produce the right amount of insulin or look down on a cancer patient because they can’t keep their malignant cells under control. However, normal drinkers don’t understand the difference in the alcoholic mind and body which renders us incapable of controlling the drink, so many believe it to be a personal failing. Incidentally, many alcoholic drinkers believe this same lie and it keeps them from seeking help.
My name is Laurie and I am an alcoholic. I have a disease that is cunning, baffling, powerful, progressive and patient. My disease is actively trying to kill me. It is only through constant vigilance that I can keep it in remission one day at a time.
For more information on alcoholism, see this article from “Medical News Today”.