Addiction is a Disease

This past Sunday, I was deeply troubled to read in the Star Leger an editorial that still questioned the fact that addiction is a disease. Below, is a response to that editorial from PDFNJ’s Board Co-Chair, Elaine Pozycki.

The timing of Elaine’s response and this discussion is coincidentally but appropriately timed with my appearance on tonight’s opioid crisis segment on the 11 p.m. news on CBS – New York Channel 2.

I, along with Vanessa Vitolo of Victory Bay Recovery Center and Mariel Hufnagel of The Ammon Foundation — two collaborators from our Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series — will be discussing the epidemic and addiction from all angles – from patient notification to support of long term recovery. I encourage you to watch and to share this information to educate others on the disease of addiction and important steps we can all take to prevent and raise awareness about substance use disorder.


By Elaine Pozycki

Regarding the op-ed article on the ReachNJ ads, “Tax money is still going to polish Christie’s image” (January 21):

The author demonstrates, at best, a misunderstanding of the accepted science on addiction and, at worst, a willful dismissal of it.

He writes that he doesn’t believe the “idea that addiction is a disease,” despite the American Society of Addiction Medicine defining addiction as a disease in which there are dysfunctions in the “brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” These dysfunctions cause those with addiction to pathologically continue using substances despite negative mental, emotional and physical effects.

This definition is supported by Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, who has concluded that addiction is a brain disease because substance use changes the brain’s structure and how it works.

As Volkow points out, scientists say genetic factors are 40 to 60 percent responsible for whether someone is vulnerable to addiction. Just as a parent’s health history would have an impact on whether a child developed asthma or heart disease, the same is true for addiction.

The idea that addiction is solely caused by choices and is a sign of a moral failing is antiquated and wrong.

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