Are Addictions Diseases?

The other day I was half paying attention to what was on television when I heard someone refer to a drug addiction as a disease.

It immediately reminded me of what one of my biblically counseling teachers said when he noted, “if it’s a disease then it’s the only disease you can catch voluntarily.”

Whether the issue is porn, spending, overeating, video games, a lot of time on the internet, modern America is quick to call these behaviors “diseases” as if they are something we catch, like cancer.

If they are diseases then my instructor was quite right is saying they are the only diseases we catch voluntarily.

The disease model of addictions first gained notice with AA.

The folks that started AA made the observation that the symptoms of alcohol abuse and addiction looked like a disease and thus implied that the user was under attack by something beyond his or her control. It was assumed that because it looked like a disease it must be so.

Addictions1Today the disease model is accepted as “truth” and applied to everything that looks like addictive, compulsive or habitual (I’m addicted to chocolate) behavior.

There are many downsides in accepting the disease model as truth but perhaps the most obvious is the implication that the abuser can’t help it. In other words you can’t hold someone responsible for catching a disease. The disease model makes the abuser a victim rather than someone who has been irresponsible and makes poor choices.

The disease model is controversial in secular circles. This link to The Disease Model of Addiction at Addiction Research explains.

The disease model is a far cry from the biblical model where an addict is an idolater who is slave to his or her lusts and really only concerned with serving self. Addicts of all sorts are pleasure seekers and the pleasure they seek has come to dominate them or in biblical language is a slave to. The slavery to the idol of pleasure is what the world calls a “disease.”

It should not surprise us that the world has adopted non-biblical terminology to describe problems common to man. It should surprise when the church of Jesus Christ does.

To help the church think biblically about addictions Mark Shaw has written a book titled The Heart of Addiction, a Biblical Perspective where he takes the disease model to task and provides scriptural solutions for addictive behavior. Although the book deals primarily with drug and alcohol abuse there is wide application to other behaviors like porn and anything else labeled additive or compulsive.

Mr. Shaw has a little extra credibility to write such a book because is a certified Master’s Level Addiction Professional (MLAP) with the Alabama Association of Drug and Alcohol Addiction. He is also a member of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors the same organization I am part of.

The book is divided into four parts following the 2 Timothy 3:16-17 model:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV)

Section 1: Teaching

Section 2: Reproof

Section 3: Correction

Section 4: Training in Righteousness

Eleven appendices follow 214 section pages to bring the total number of pages to 253.

The book is comprehensive and unlike popular books like Celebrating Recovery, The Heart of Addiction (Mr. Shaw’s book) is all Bible, unlike Celebrate Recovery which takes an “admixture approach.” (Admixture means psychology plus Bible.)

I highly recommend the book as a “Bible only” counseling resource. A workbook can also be purchased.

Amazon is selling the book for $12.50 and the workbooks for $8.95.

For more insight by Mr. Shaw follow this link, Is “Addiction” Rooted in a Disease, Demon or Decision at the Grace and Truth Blog. The comments following the article are worth the time to read.

Although this link, Do Christians Overhype Porn Addiction  deals with “porn addiction” it’s well worth the read because it deals with same controversy of the disease or (medical) model versus Scripture.