Disease Model of Addiction, A Failure?

3418 Public Works Drive, (PressExposure) May 12, 2009 -- There has been many forms of drug treatment used in different adult and adolescent drug rehab across the US. One approach is called the Diseased Person Model. Though it can be considered as an effective means to cure or heal a person of his/her addiction, the diseased person model has been under criticism from professionals and other psychotherapists. But what is the Diseased Person Model? What makes it an effective means of addiction treatment? And why is it being criticized?

Disease Model of Addiction

The disease model of addiction or diseased person model has long contended the maladaptive patterns of alcohol and substance use displayed by addicted adolescents. One of the views of the model is that the addiction is the result of a lifelong disease that is biological in origin and aggravated by environmental contingencies such as peer-pressure. This model speaks that the addict is essentially powerless over his or her problematic behaviors and unable to remain sober by him or herself, just like individuals with a terminal illness are unable to fight the disease by themselves without proper medication.

Behavioral treatment, therefore, necessarily requires individuals to admit their addiction, renounce their former lifestyle, and seek a supportive social network who can help them remain sober. Such approaches are the quintessential features of Twelve-step programs commonly used as one of the most successful forms of adolescent drug rehab programs. Though some have cited its success, these approaches have met considerable amounts of criticism, coming from opponents who disapprove of the spiritual-religious orientation on both psychological and legal grounds.

Criticism of the Approach

Critics of the method, particularly those who ascribe to the life-process model of addiction (a view that addiction is not a disease but rather a habitual response) argue that labeling people as addicts keeps them from developing self-control and stigmatizes them. They also argue that the disease approach has not discovered any biological mechanisms to identify addictive behavior, and that it therefore does not fit the definition of disease.

Also, some psychotherapists question the validity of the "diseased person" model used within the drug rehabilitation environment. Instead, they state the individual person is entirely capable of rejecting previous behaviors. Further, they contend the use of the disease model of addiction simply brings out the addicts' feelings of worthlessness, powerlessness, and inevitably which causes inner conflicts that should have been resolved if the addict were to approach addiction as behavior that is no longer productive. Most adolescent drug rehab programs do not use the approach anymore; inasmuch as they are seen to contradict the assumption that the addict is a sick person in need of help. Nonetheless, despite this criticism, outcome studies have revealed that affiliation with twelve-step programs predicts abstinence success at 1-year follow-up

About Self-employed

Donna Sparks is a Professor and a Consultant Physician. Other than her clinical and local teaching commitments, she also continues to enjoy the privileges of research, writing and lecturing.

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Press Release Submitted On: May 12, 2009 at 3:47 am
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