The Disease Concept of Addiction: As Relevant as the Germ Theory? by Robert Bondurant, RN, LCSW Executive Director

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The Disease Concept of Addiction: As Relevant as the Germ Theory? by Robert Bondurant, RN, LCSW Executive Director

It is safe to say that the concept of addiction as a disease is certainly controversial. Does this mean it is wrong or not of value?

Another controversial concept was the germ theory of disease. This theory attempted to explain some diseases by the action of microorganisms. These small organisms, too small to see without magnification, invade humans, animals and other hosts.

The first proposal that organisms too small to be seen could cause disease is attributed to Democrites, a fourth century BC Greek philosopher.

However, the basis for the modern germ theory of disease began in the 16th century with Girolamo Fracastoro. The work really began in the 1800’s with men like Semmolweis, Pasteur and Koch.

When you read about these early efforts it is clear that acceptance was not readily or easily obtained. Often these pioneers were considered quacks, crazy, or at best, misguided.

However, the acceptance and clinical implementation of the germ theory has transformed medicine and has saved countless lives.

The proponents of the concept of alcoholism/addiction as a disease also experience similar reactions as the germ theorists. However, once accepted and implemented, it too could transform medicine and save countless lives.

The medical world needs to be more familiar with this concept. It can transform preconceptions and misconceptions. There is great research being done and lives are being saved. But, we are still in the beginning stage and have much to do. Until we move further along in our understanding, we will continue to react and be limited in our ability to be proactive.

To stimulate more interest and awareness with this revolutionary concept of the disease of addiction, Dr. Angres’ chapter two of his book, Positive Sobriety, is being reprinted here, with his permission. He too, is a pioneer and is willing to challenge an unbelieving world. We have published other articles recently on this subject, but this excellent article especially deserves to be read in its entirety. (The entire article is also available at our website, http://www.themphp.org/Resources/ LinksandDocuments/tabid/101/Default.aspx.)

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