Theories of the Etiology of Addiction

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Certain models and theories regarding addiction have a tremendously valuable impact con society’s reaction toward addiction. There are certain aspects of each theory which are very important in the treatment of addiction. Not all addicts and alcoholics fit into the specific criteria of one theory or model so it is beneficial for Chemical Dependency Counselors to have an in depth understanding of various theories to draw from. Most theories about addiction fail to provide a comprehensive account of chemical abuse, dependence or addiction. There is truth and speculation to every theory. It is important for Chemical Dependency Counselors to continue to research and critique theories because it initiates the creation of new theories. For the purpose of examining two contrasting theories this dissertation analyzes the Disease Model of addiction against the merits of the Moral Model of addiction.

The America Medical Association announced alcoholism/addiction as a disease in 1957. This declaration introduced the most widely accepted model of addiction known as the disease model. A Philadelphia physician by the name of Benjamin Rush was one of the first people to consider alcoholism/addiction as a disease. Rush’s view was later expanded and promoted by E.M. Jellinek, writer of the book “The Diesease Concept of Alcoholism”, published in 1960. Addiction medical organizations have adopted the disease model of addiction and this model is currently used in both the professional treatment of alcoholics and other drug addicts as well as in self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous (Meyer and Quenzer, 2005). The concept of alcoholism as a disease is accurately based on three criteria which support the disease model. In order for an affliction or disorder to meet the minimum criteria to be categorized as a disease it must have a known etiology (cause), the symptoms must get worse over time, and it must have known outcomes. Alcoholism and addiction meet these three criteria consistently.

“Early disease models, such as the one proposed by Jellinek for alcoholism, can be called susceptibility models. This type of model proposes that the disease of addiction stems primarily from an inherited susceptibility to uncontrolled drug use” (Meyer and Quenzer, 2005, p. 204). With Jellinek’s model of alcoholism/addiction, there is an emphasis on loss of control. In this model, loss of control can be characterized by a person who is vulnerable to alcoholism or addiction, suffering from the inability to stop drinking or using until reaching intoxication once they have consumed any amount of the substance. This indicates that a person who is vulnerable to alcoholism or addiction could never use in moderation because as soon as they consumed a small amount they would illustrate their inherited susceptibility to uncontrolled use. Despite their initial plan to drink/use in moderation, they will not stop using until reaching intoxication. This “susceptibility” supports the idea that addicts are born, not made (Meyer and Quenzer, 2005). To further validate the disease model, research has been compiled for more than thirty years to explain and support the genetic component of addiction.

Research surrounding the genetic component of alcoholism and addiction explains that alcoholics and addicts are predisposed to addiction by genetically transmitted biological risk factors. Continuing research links addiction to genetic markers. “Geneticists now recognize that complex traits, including drug addiction, are controlled by many different genes working together and that these genetic influences interact in important ways with various social and environmental factors” (Meyer and Quenzer, 2005, p.204). Researchers have identified a link between the receptor gene for the neurotransmitter dopamine and alcoholism/addiction. These finding establish a clearly significant genetic factor which predispositions certain people to addiction....
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