Can Someone Suffering From Addiction Be Cured?

man sitting on a bench smoking

Can someone suffering from addiction be cured? If you or someone you love is currently struggling with a substance abuse disorder, this is probably a question you’ve wondered about for a long time. If so, you’re certainly not alone. In the following sections, we’ll have a look at this rather thorny question.

Problem Use Vs Addiction

Before we can address the question of ‘curing’ addiction properly, there are a few basics we need to go over. First, most addiction professionals make a fairly sharp distinction between ‘problem use’ and ‘addiction.’ Problem use is pretty much just what it sounds like. It’s a term that applies to someone whose drinking or drug use has started to cause problems for them in one or more life areas. Perhaps the best way to think of ‘problem use’ is as an intermediate stage between, say, a casual or social drinker and someone who has developed a full-fledged alcohol use disorder.

Addiction is different. Although the DSM-5 has a fairly specific set of criteria for substance abuse disorder, things can get a bit more ‘fuzzy’ in real life. Unfortunately, it is beyond the scope of this article to delve too deeply into the technical definition of addiction. For our purposes, it’s enough to say that the term ‘addiction’ is typically applied to someone whose substance abuse has progressed far beyond that of a ‘problem user.’ In short, if drugs or alcohol are controlling your life, you’ve probably progressed into the so-called ‘addicted’ stage.

In any case, this is the set of people to whom the question ‘can someone suffering from addiction be cured?’ actually applies. Generally speaking, if someone is still in the ‘problem use’ stage of drinking or drug use, they can stop or reduce their use without professional help. But what does that mean for someone who is truly ‘addicted?’

So, Can Addiction Be Cured or Not?

The short answer to this very complicated question is a resounding ‘no.’ While there are exceptions, most people who have progressed into a full-blown substance abuse disorder need professional help to begin to recover. The word ‘recover’ can cause some confusion in this area. The same goes for the idea that addiction is a disease. After all, ‘recovery’ means ‘cured’ most of the time, right? And if you suffer a disease, you can sometimes be ‘cured’ as well.

Well, this is where it might seem like we’re crossing over into semantics. However, substance abuse involves a great deal more than words. Perhaps the best way to think about a substance abuse disorder is in terms of a ‘disease model.’ What this means is that a person who is suffering from addiction displays the characteristics of a disease and should be treated as such. When you look at it this way, it doesn’t matter if substance abuse is a disease like diabetes or cancer.

We can sum up with a brief discussion of the word ‘recovery.’ In terms of substance abuse disorder, recovery is a process, not a permanent state of being. At the present time, there is no cure for addiction. However, an addicted person can recover. But this can only come about with professional help and a consistent aftercare program.

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