Join Annie and her lead certified Naked Mind coach, Scott Pinyard, as they discuss one of the most difficult and frequently asked questions, “Is alcohol addiction a disease…..or not?” Annie and Scott dissect this challenging question and give us a look at both sides of the argument of whether or not alcohol addiction can be called a ‘disease’. Do we have convincing research to really say it is a disease? Or do we lean on this title to remove responsibility from ourselves?

Episode Links:
The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is Not a Disease by Marc Lewis

Download EP:97 Transcript

Something New

We’ve had this idea from the live Q and A calls we do every single week with a group of incredible people who we bring through this program. Some of these questions are tough. They take research. Some of them we have to dig into. We had this idea that these questions, they’re so good, and people get so much out of these questions, that why don’t we start just answering the coaching questions on a podcast. Take some of the hardest ones and throw them out there, and toss them around, pull in the research that we did together to answer the questions for our Naked Mind participants, but also just for all of you just to really, you know, answer some of these tough tough questions the best we can.

Is addiction a disease?

I’m going to put a big disclaimer on here that we do not definitively know the answer to this question, nor does anybody. We are going to give, based on our knowledge, our research, kind of the most information we can. I have to warn you, we don’t intend to say, “This is the answer to this question.” Because it’s one that has been a subject of lots of debate for decades, for maybe probably even longer.

The question is, is alcohol addiction a disease or is it not a disease?

Many Answers

There’s a lot of different ways to look at this. One of the books that was key for me in my process was The Biology of Desire by Mark Lewis. Mark talks a lot about this idea. This idea and sort of the history of how we’ve treated alcohol addiction. We used to look at it as this moral failing. It was just that you weren’t strong enough. You weren’t doing it right. If you were just a little more self-reliant, or if you were a little bit more responsible, or if you cared more, you know, you wouldn’t have this issue.


We obviously know that’s not the case. There’s a lot of issues that, you know, alcohol addiction isn’t the only one we look at that way or used to look at it that way. As time went on, there was this idea of well no, it’s not that, it’s a disease. So, by calling it a disease, we remove this idea of, you know, we remove this moral dimension from it. We remove this idea of fault. We look at the is addiction a disease.

I Don’t Agree

That never really sat well with me. Like, I never really understood that because one of the ways that, you know, I look at disease, as an example, I think we talk about in the book, Annie, you talk about there’s no such thing as a cigarette-aholic or a nicotine-aholic, right? But, we know very well what the damage is that comes from smoking cigarettes over time. We’re well aware of that. This idea that, you know, that being addicted to the substance is the disease, was one that was kind of tough for me to swallow.

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Addiction As A Process

I always saw the disease part of alcohol addiction, as the results, right? So, how your body deteriorates under regular heavy use of the substance. That’s things like liver problems. We know there’s a lot of cancers associated with it. We also know that there’s mental effects associated with it, depression and anxiety. I’ve seen those physical effects as the disease. To me, addiction as a process, I guess, I just haven’t seen the evidence that makes meI can yes to “Is addiction a disease?” That’s kind of where I stand on it.

We Don’t Know

The truth is that we don’t know the answer to is alcohol addiction a disease. In many ways it ends up being a chicken and an egg question. Tune in to the complete podcast to hear all the factors that contribute to this dilemma and our take on it.

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Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (
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