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What Is The Disease Model Of Addiction

The Power Of The Brain

What is the Disease Model of Addiction?

Addicts will tell you they do not want to use drugs or drink alcohol anymore, but they cannot stop. They are telling the truth. Their brain will not let them stop. Their brain keeps them continually seeking a fix so they can feel good again.

The brain encourages an addict to behave compulsively. For example, if money is lying around the home, and the brain wants to get high, it will enable the addict to steal the money. Other compulsive behaviors include lying, cheating, pawning items for cash, and participating in activities considered shameful and dangerous to non-addicts.

If the addict tries to quit using drugs or alcohol, the brain retaliates and causes severe withdrawal symptoms. The brain will do whatever it can to feel good again, even if that means making you have seizures, tremors, vomiting, nausea, and severe flu-like symptoms.

Now that you know this, you can understand why just quitting is not possible. Instead, addicts must go through a process that includes getting sober, learning how to live a sober life, and continued care to prevent relapse. When any of these steps are skipped, relapse is more likely to happen.

Morally Bankrupt: Public Perceptions Of Addiction

As we explained above, previous years saw perceptions of addicts being extremely negative. Anyone who suffered from addiction was somehow a bad person who should be punished for their selfishness and refusal to exercise self-control. Over the years, we would come to gain a much more enlightened understanding of how addiction works however, despite the more enlightened understanding we have about addiction, perceptions are still largely negative. There have been studies to show that people view addicts similarly to how they view the mentally ill, but more recent studies indicate lower regard for addicts than for the mentally ill.

There are a couple of important effects resulting from the stigma that society has attached to addiction, one of which is that the stigma discourages addicts from seeking treatment. Addicts who have tried to keep their addictions a secret from the people around them will often be extremely reluctant or resistant to the addiction recovery process because they dont want to experience the discrimination and even harassment that often results from being an addict. Alternately, it has made society extremely reluctant to get behind any government initiatives that provide aid or assistance to anyone suffering from addiction. For this reason, its only relatively recently that substance abuse treatment was added to the essential health benefits of most insurance and government health plans.

Risk Factors Identified With The Disease Model Of Addiction

Another reason why addiction and alcoholism are considered diseases is that they are marked by distinct risk factors. There are various genetic, environmental, and social factors that can increase the risk of developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol. The most common risk factors are as follows.

Genetic risk factors:

  • Genetics studies suggest up to half of a persons vulnerability to addiction depends on his or her genetic makeup.
  • Mental illness people who struggle with mental health conditions are at an increased risk for addiction.

Environmental risk factors:

  • Home environment children who grow up in homes with substance abuse, criminal behavior, mental illness, neglect, abuse, or divorce are more likely to use drugs and alcohol.
  • Trauma experiencing one or more traumatic events and/or developing post-traumatic stress disorder makes a person more vulnerable to addiction.

Social risk factors:

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Why The Disease Definition Of Addiction Does Far More Harm Than Good

Among other problems, it has obstructed other channels of investigation, including the social, psychological and societal roots of addiction

Over the past year and a half, Scientific American has published a number of fine articles arguing that addiction is not a disease, that drugs are not the cause of addiction, and that social and societal factors are fundamental contributors to opioid addiction in general and the overdose crisis in particular. The dominant view, that addiction is a disease resulting from drug use, is gradually being eroded by these and other incisive critiques. Yet the disease model and its corollaries still prevail in the domains of research, policy setting, knowledge dissemination and treatment delivery, more in the United States than in any other country in the developed world. You might wonder: what are we waiting for?

The disease model remains dominant in the U.S. because of its stakeholders. First, the rehab industry, worth an estimated $35 billion per year, uses the disease nomenclature in a vast majority of its ads and slogans. Despite consistently low success rates, that’s not likely to stop because it pulls in the cash. Second, as long as addiction is labeled a disease, medical insurance providers can be required to pay for it.

But why does the definition of addiction matter? Isn’t this just a word game?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Is It A Chronic Disease

Addiction disease model

A chronic disease is a long-lasting condition that can be controlled but not cured.

Most people who engage in substance use do not develop addiction. And many people who do so to a problematic extent, such as young people during their high school or college years, tend to reduce their use once they take on more adult responsibilities. Still, about 25-50% of people with a substance use problem develop a severe, chronic disorder. For them, addiction is a progressive, relapsing disease that requires intensive treatments and continuing aftercare, monitoring and family or peer support to manage their recovery.

The good news is that even the most severe, chronic form of the disorder can be manageable, usually with long-term treatment and continued monitoring and support for recovery.

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Why The Disease Model Of Addiction Makes Sense

Youve probably heard about the disease model of addiction since its been very highly publicized in recent years. In the simplest of terms, the disease model of addiction states that addiction is a relapsing brain disorder characterized by the altered structure and functioning of the brain. These changes occur over time a person must begin abusing alcohol or drugs and then continue abusing alcohol or drugs for a prolonged period of time. Its through the repeated abuse of these chemical substances that cause the altered structure and functioning of the brain. Put another way, addiction is precipitated by the conscious choice to abuse alcohol or drugs, but it develops through the continued use of alcohol and drugs.

The neurological changes that result from continued substance abuse are what cause many of the behavioral hallmarks of addiction. This includes a general lack of self-control, obsessive fixation on alcohol and drugs, emotional volatility, and similar changes in demeanor. Its also the neurological changes that precipitate withdrawal symptoms the continued use of mind-altering chemicals results in abnormal neurochemical levels, but as the brain begins to accommodate the altered neurochemical levels, it begins to see this abnormal state as normal with normal levels of neurochemicals being insufficient. This is what causes withdrawal symptoms.

What Are The Potential Causes Of Addiction

Looking only at the surface, addiction would appear to be a disease. To become an addict, a person must first abuse mind-altering substances, which would seem to indicate a behavioral origin of addiction. If a person were to refrain from any type of alcohol or drug abuse, it would be physically impossible for him or her to become an addict however, despite knowing the risks, individuals continue to abuse these substances, defying their better judgment and putting them on the path to addiction. We will return to this point momentarily.

In addition to the behavioral component wherein, people become addicts after choosing to abuse intoxicants recreationally, there are environmental and genetic causes of addiction. Genetic is the easiest to explain as it refers to the genes that could increase ones susceptibility to addiction being passed from one generation to the next. There have been no specific genes identified, but there are many that could have some level of effect on the risk factors. On the other hand, the environment is known to be an extremely important variable. People who are exposed to lots of alcohol and drug abuse whether by their loved ones or friends will begin to see substance abuse as normal, making them more and more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs themselves.

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Three Stages In The Brain Disease Model Of Addiction

The disease model of addiction recognizes addiction as a repeating cycle that has three unique stages. Each stage of this cycle is known to affect specific regions of the brain. Since researchers have identified specific areas of the brain that are affected by addiction, as well as specific signs and symptoms, they are able to designate addiction or substance use disorder as a disease.

The three stages outlined in the disease model of addiction and the areas of the brain that are affected in each stage are:

1. Binge/Intoxication and the Basal Ganglia

The binge or intoxication stage refers to when an individual uses drugs or alcohol to experience pleasurable or rewarding side effects. Pleasurable effects occur when an excess of dopamine, serotonin, or norepinephrine is released in the brain to produce a high.

The area of the brain that is affected by this stage of the addiction cycle is the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia is a region of the brain that experiences the rewarding effects of drugs and alcohol. It is also the region that is initially responsible for the development of compulsive or habitual drug/alcohol abuse.

2. Withdrawal/Negative Effect and the Extended Amygdala

The extended amygdala is the region of the brain that is affected in this cycle. This region is responsible for causing feelings of stress, unease, irritability, and anxiety that appear when the brain is in the absence of the addictive substance.

The Disease Model Of Addiction Explained

How do you define addiction? Chronic Disease Model of Addiction

Addiction is a disease related to the brain. It is recognised as a chronic disease that must be treated, managed and monitored over a persons lifetime. Addiction involves changes in the functioning of the brain and body. The disease theory of addiction defines addiction as a compulsive disorder that occurs due to chemical changes in the brain, which is induced by regular abuse of drugs and or alcohol rather than a conscious decision.

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Find Yourself At Discover Recovery Treatment Center

There are so many people who misunderstand addiction. In fact, the misconceptions about addiction that have been so common have stigmatized substance abuse and often discourage people from seeking treatment. As a result, a very low percentage of people who are chemically dependent actually receive the care they need to get sober.

At Discovery Recovery Treatment Center, our prioritize is to use innovative treatments and techniques to help those in need. Additionally, we have built our programs around our core values of integrity, transparency, passion, and community.

To learn more about our programs, or to find out how Discover Recovery can help, contact us today.

Start Your Journey Today

Why Is Will Power Not Enough

The initial and early decisions to use substances are based in large part on a persons free or conscious choice, often influenced by their culture and environment. Certain factors, such as a family history of addiction, trauma or inadequately treated mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, may make some people more susceptible to substance use disorders than others. Once the brain has been changed by addiction, that choice or willpower becomes impaired. Perhaps the most defining symptom of addiction is a loss of control over substance use.

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Belief In Free Will And The Seductive Allure Of Neuroscience Information

Interestingly, a literature on the seductive allure of neuroscience explanations and neurorealism has tackled the issue of the actual impact of neuroscience on explanations of general psychological phenomena, and could shed light on the debate about the impact of the brain disease model of addiction on belief in free will. One influential study reported that neuroscience explanations have a seductive allure on naïve respondents because they increase the attributed value of a scientific explanation of psychological phenomena even if the neuroscience component of the explanation is irrelevant to what is being explained . This effect was found to be greater for poor explanations than for good explanations in the naïve respondents . Students in a graduate neuroscience course judged both the good and bad explanations as more satisfying when they contained irrelevant neuroscience verbiage. However, experts were not swayed by the added neuroscience explanations .

Disease Model Of Addiction Gains Continued Support

Addiction disease model
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A peer-reviewed journal article was released on January 27th in the New England Journal of Medicine expressing support of the disease model of addiction. Though the disease model is not a new concept and has been discussed in numerous studies, skepticism has remained. According to this journal article, however, addiction should be viewed as an acquired disease of the brain, based on research that continues to give neurobiological evidence of addiction as a disease, not a moral failing.

The disease model of addiction is important to advancing the science of addiction medicine, freeing those who have struggled with the stigma that their addiction is solely a moral problem or lack of willpower. There have been many research findings that show addiction as a complex, chronic brain disease that can be managed by long-term, active recovery. Staying informed on these advances and advocating accordingly are important to the community of those who are struggling and those who are recovering from addiction. Heres a recap on what researchers from the National Institute on Drug Abuse , National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism , and Board of the Treatment Research Institute have summarized.

Addiction and the Brain

Why Does It Matter?

Tori Utley is an entrepreneur working to tackle the stigma towards addiction. Check out her most recent talk at Mayo Clinics Transform Conference in September 2015 on ending addiction stigma.

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Treatment Under The Disease Model Of Addiction

The disease model of addiction recognises that adequate treatment is possible. The treatment programme largely depends on your exact needs and goals. Rehab facilities offer two types of programmes: outpatient and inpatient treatments. In inpatient treatment, patients live at the rehab centre full-time ranging from a few weeks to a few months. In outpatient treatment, patients commute from their homes or sober living houses.

The Brains Reward System

Drugs change the brain by affecting a brain pathway called the mesolimbic reward system that impacts the limbic system and the orbitofrontal cortex.5 The activation of this reward system by substances causes drug users to continue taking drugs. Every time they take a drug, the brain rewards the behavior with euphoria, relaxation, calmness, or highness. The brain then seeks more of these rewards, causing the individual to crave more of the substance that leads to addiction.

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Addiction And The Brain

For many people, one of the biggest contributing factors to the development of addiction is genetics. In other words, because of their genetic make-up, some people are just more prone to the disease than others. According to a study published in Psychology Today, the link between genetics and addiction is as high as 40 percent in some people.4

Environmental factors may also play a role in the development of addiction. Childhood trauma, high levels of stress, low parental involvement, and peer pressure may all lead to experimentation with substances. And studies show that the earlier a person has their first experience with drugs or alcohol, the more likely he or she is to develop addiction later in life. Drug or alcohol abuse may also be an attempt to self-medicate an undiagnosed or untreated mental illness.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that one-third of alcohol users and one-half of drug users also suffer from a mental disorder, for instance.5 Drugs or alcohol may provide a temporary numbing effect for mental health symptoms, but the need to continue using for symptom relief makes it impossible for the user to stop. With continued use, the person struggling with addiction will experience intense drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms when the next dose is due.

Examining The Impact Of Neuroscience Explanations On Belief In Free Will In The Context Of Addiction

The Disease Model of Addiction
  • Research question 1: Does a textual neuroscience description of addiction diminish attributions of free will compared to a control group that received no such information?

  • Research question 2: Do neuroimages referring to addiction diminish attributions of free will compared to a control group?

  • Research question 3: Does a combination of a textual neuroscience description and a neuroimage referring to addiction yield the strongest diminishing effect on attributions of free will compared to a control group?

  • Research question 4: Do respondents with different characteristics attribute different levels of free will to people with addiction?

  • Research question 5: How do such respondent characteristics shape the effect of neuroscience information on attributions of free will?

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Stage One: Binging And Intoxication

In the first stage, the drug activates the brains reward circuit by causing a dramatic increase in the release of dopamine.9 This increase in dopamine induces a reward signal that triggers associative learning or conditioning.9 Thus, the brain begins to relate the drug experience with the reward, and eventually, reward signals are triggered merely in anticipation of drug use.9

How Can An Amino Acid Infusion Help Someone Recover From Addiction

Because substance use disorders cause an imbalance among neurotransmitters, an amino acid infusion can help create neurotransmitters, restoring the brain to its normal state faster., One method of doing this is intravenous amino acid therapy that includes a combination of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals injected straight into the bloodstream. They travel into the brain, where they assist in creating new neurotransmitters. Clients typically complete intravenous amino acid therapy in ten days.

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