The Disease Concept of Addiction and Mental Health Disorders            

Chromosomal studies and genetic research have discovered more and more genes that predict a person’s biological predisposition for substance abuse, dependence and mental health disorders. It is remarkable that the Big Book of Alcoholic Anonymous, published in 1939, by Bill W. and Dr. Bob, from the very beginning had the presupposition that alcohol dependence had biological roots. Like many diseases, alcohol and drug dependence are diseases related to several different sources. Addiction and mental health have biological, psychological, and sociological roots. The Bio-Psycho-Social disease model is the foundation of thought in most treatment centers.

Substance abuse, like many diseases, has features of co-morbidity as well. Addiction is frequently co-morbid with mental health disorders. Alcoholism is often co-morbid with depression. Meth or Cocaine addictions are often co-morbid with untreated Bipolar disorders. 

The majority of alcoholics and drug addicts have been unconsciously self-medicating undiagnosed mental health issues. Many addiction treatmentcenters do not have the ability to provide psychotropic medicine for such people. Working with mental health is thus imperative for both treatment centers and for addicted individuals.

Often, alcoholics and drug addicts are considered morally weak and despicably depraved. 


There are several positive outcomes of our new scientific research on alcohol and drug dependence. 

One is that the disease concept has been strengthened by repeated studies. 

Two is that the disease concept mitigates some of the shame and guilt. 

Three is that psychotropic medications can be used to treat the underlying mental health disorders. 

Four is that psychological counseling can get at the root of trauma and other exacerbating issues.

Substance abuse can be compared diabetes. A person who eats right, exercises, and takes their insulin can live a normal life. An alcoholic or an addict, who stops, eats right, exercises, and goes to AA or NA meetings can live a normal life. Even though a diabetic or a substance abuser has a biological predisposition to a disease, if they acknowledge the disease, take the recommended steps, and fight the disease, they can live a normal life. 


Hope for Life recommends 12 Step meetings and frequent contact with a person’s AA, NA, or Al-Anon sponsor. A person, be they diabetic or addicted, can never take a day off from treating their disease. 

Always remember that here is hope for life and for health and for peace available for you and for those you love.


Dr. Ronald Lee Cobb, DMin LCAC

Hope for Life



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