addiction as brain disease

What is the Disease Model of Addiction?

The medical community classifies addiction as a disease, but there is still a lot of controversy over this. Some people believe that drug and alcohol addiction is a serious behavioral problem rather than a disease. Our intention is not to debate this argument, but rather to take some time to explain the disease model of addiction and how it works. 

As one of the most trusted treatment centers in Agoura Hills, California, Awakenings Treatment Center believes that substance use disorders can only get better through high-quality, comprehensive, and personalized treatment, regardless of its origin. Below is more information about the disease model of addiction and why addiction treatment is necessary.

What is the Disease Model of Addiction? 

Whenever drugs or alcohol are used, they flood the brain with dopamine. This causes structural changes to the brain that lead to compulsive behavior and progressive loss of control. The brain learns to crave this dopamine rush more and more, viewing it as more important than anything else. This is why addicts seem to put their addiction before everything else. 

Like diabetes or heart disease, addiction is a chemical and biological issue that requires treatment to get better. It is caused by a combination of behavioral, psychological, environmental, and biological factors. Genetic risk factors account for about 50 percent of the likelihood that a person will develop an addiction. 

What About Personal Responsibility and Choice? 

At first glance, it probably seems easy to ask someone to stop using drugs and alcohol. Is it really that hard to put down a drink or stop abusing prescription painkillers when you know the damage it will eventually do? For an addict, it is, and the disease model of addiction does a good job explaining why. 

When it comes to addiction, the individual always has a choice to experiment with substances. If the person chooses not to use substances, they won’t be at risk for addiction. So in one sense, a person does have a choice when it comes to drugs and alcohol. That said, becoming addicted is not a choice

Once the neurobiological effects take place, it becomes that much more difficult for a person to stop using drugs and alcohol. Their brain becomes reliant on substances to feel good and normal and won’t stop looking for them. This is why addicts become compulsive and put everything aside to drink and get high. 

Willpower is Not Enough. Most Need Professional Help to Achieve Sobriety. 

We wish that willpower was enough to kick a drug and alcohol habit. Unfortunately, it’s rarely enough. Addiction is a degenerative disease that causes a person’s identity to deteriorate. This makes it nearly impossible to make good, healthy choices that will keep them out of harm's way. 

While we are not suggesting that you dismiss an addict’s behavior, it is important to practice compassion and not view addiction as a moral failure. Here is what addicts typically need to overcome their problems and break the cycle of addiction

  • Detox. The process of detoxification rids the body of drugs, alcohol, and other harmful toxins. It usually takes about a week to get everything out of the body and for the body to adjust to living without these substances. 
  • Treatment. There are two main options for addiction treatment: inpatient and outpatient. With inpatient treatment, the addict lives at the treatment center and receives 24-hour support. In outpatient rehab in Agoura, the addict receives treatment during the day and returns to their family at night. 
  • Aftercare. After completing treatment, an addict will receive an aftercare plan that includes attending therapy and 12-step groups, developing a healthy routine, finding a job, and so forth. 

Start Your Journey at Awakenings Treatment 

Addiction is a disease, but it is a treatable disease. With the right addiction treatment, you or a loved one can kick this habit and start working through counseling. Awakenings Treatment Center can guide you through this process while introducing you to a wide range of treatment techniques like art therapy, music therapy, and neurofeedback. Contact us today to learn more about our affordable, convenient outpatient treatment programs (located in Agoura Hills, California)