Why Opioid Addiction is a Disease with Medical Treatment Options

Medication-assisted treatment is something civic leaders can consider as they go forward in addressing a community’s opioid epidemic.


There are many that argue that because a person addicted to opioids chose to take them the first time, that opioid addiction is not a disease. Some argue further that because choice at one time may have played into the matter, insurers should not have to pay for medical treatment, like New Jersey mom and radio broadcaster Judi Franco. Franco set out to prove her point in 12 steps based on the disease cancer. But a diabetic who chooses to eat chocolate on occasion may exacerbate her symptoms. By Franco’s logic, insurers shouldn’t have to pay for additional insulin treatments, either.

The idea that opioid addiction is not a disease, and should not be enabled by public health practices that call it one, is widely shared. For example, Stop Calling Your Drug Addiction a Disease was shared 746,000 times on Facebook, according to data from Buzzsumo.com. The article was written by a student at Fordham University who feels that some addicts are just acting like they are sick.

“Addiction treatment has become more widely available, and the stereotypes surrounding addicts have definitely changed. However, one thing remains constant, and that is addicts and enablers labeling drug addiction as a disease,” the student wrote.

Certainly all people have a right to their opinions, but a disease is defined as “a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms,” according to Merriam Webster.

Medical research by the National Institutes of Health featured in this 2-minute video by Pew Charitable Trusts explains how opioids alter receptors in the brain, impairing function, and why NIH recommends medication to address the receptors, and therefore, help cure the disease.

Medication-assisted treatment beyond naloxone is something civic leaders can consider as they go forward in addressing a community’s opioid epidemic. Civic leaders must weigh the opinions of all citizens, but leading the charge to address a local opioid epidemic based on the belief that there is no “condition of the living animal or plant body, or of one of its parts, that impairs normal functioning” would go against foremost medical research conducted in and by the United States.

Andrea Fox is Editor of Gov1.com and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.

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