The Disease Model of Addiction

The Disease Model of AddictionA lot of detox and treatment centers claim that their philosophy regards the “disease model of addiction,” but do you know what that really means? Most people don’t. The “disease model of addiction” simply describes addiction as a disease, meaning it has environmental, biological, genetic and neurological derivations. The disease model of addiction relies on the traditional medical model of a disease, that says a disease only requires an abnormal condition be present and that said abnormal condition causes a lack of function or lack of comfort. Well, addiction certainly falls under that category! Treating addiction as a disease may not seem like a novel concept, but taking history into account, it surely is. For years, addiction was seen as a moral affliction and subsequently, addicts were thought of as deviants with no hope. Thanks to modern medicine, Alcoholics Anonymous and improved addiction treatment, we now know that addiction is in fact, a disease- one that can be treated, and one whose patients deserve the utmost compassion. If you or a loved one is in need of treatment, choose a treatment center that can provide knowledgeable, compassionate care and takes the disease model of addiction into account.

Addiction was first declared a disease back in 1956. This was revolutionary at the time. For years, people had been backed by institutions to believe addiction was a behavior problem, or deficit of character/morality. Unfortunately, this stigma still persists. Many, especially those that have had negative interactions with an addict, believe that addiction is primarily a behavior problem. This perception can be hard to overcome, but it is important to recognize disease as an addiction in order to properly treat it with all the scientific advances available in today’s society.

With addiction labeled as a disease, doors open up in terms of healthcare treatment. This sentiment, viewing addiction as a disease, led to litigation and insurance policy that allows a myriad of addiction treatments to be covered under popular insurance providers. President Obama furthered this by placing addiction treatment into what was covered under the Affordable Healthcare Act. As you can see, there is a burgeoning social movement for the recognition of addiction as a disease and for the proper treatment of it. Finally, society is catching up with science.

Scientists have understood, for some time, that addiction fits the disease model, displaying biological, genetic, environmental and neurological origins. Obviously people have understood the role genetics play in addiction for a while. Those with addiction or alcoholism in their family are predisposed to be addicts or alcoholics themselves. But, not as many people understand that there are also biological, environmental and neurological reasonings for addiction, so we will explain these origins a bit more, as they are the bedrock of the disease model of addiction.

There is a vast neurological explanation for addiction. As you may know, addiction is comprised of three primary stages- preoccupation, binge and withdrawal. These stages feed into each and grow worse over time. Once these stages are happening frequently, the experience can be classified as chemical dependence. What is profound about these stages are the neurological effects they have on the brain. The chemical response experienced by a user’s brain during preoccupation, binge and withdrawal changes rapidly, and this alteration in regular brain circuitry and functioning describes the neurological part of addiction.

The biological model for addiction draws from both the genetic and neurological counterparts. How much someone engages in or likes a specific drug is due to their particular brain makeup. One’s brain makeup is comprised of genes they inherited as well as chemical patterns and brain circuitry that rely on neurological functions. The biological factor of addiction is a mix of all these themes, as the ability to quell impulsives thoughts via rational thinking is a brain function that differs, depending on the brain and who it belongs to. Some have a deficiency regarding their ability to resist impulse and that is often the trademark of an addict.

The environmental origins of addiction regard the fact that addiction can manifest as a poor coping mechanism or as a response to an unfortunate environment. Regarding coping skills, the existence of poor social skills and poor emotional regulation often lends a hand in forming substance abuse in an individual, and if you think about it, it makes practical sense. Those that are easily distraught, easily swayed by both accolades and censure, and those that have a hard time engaging in work, social situations and romantic relationships are particularly prone to addiction. Seemingly, substances take the edge off of these predicaments, social anxiety, especially. Additionally, the environment in which one was raised plays a part in determining addictive traits. If one was raised in a household/environment that included trauma, substance abuse by someone else, or any kind of chaos, they are at an increased risk for addiction.

The fact that so many elements contribute to the disease model of addiction might seem bleak, but in reality, it gives us a toolbox with which to fight addiction. The more we know, the more we can specifically target treatment to the terms of the disease model. Scientific advances help us combat the neurological, biological and genetic portions of addiction, while group therapy helps us get to the bottom of the environmental factors of the disease. If you are interested in a treatment center that engages a holistic approach to appropriately counter addiction, as it is portrayed in the disease model, look no further than the services and therapy we offer.