What is the Disease Model of Addiction?

What is the Disease Model of Addiction & why does it matter?

If you have ever struggled with addiction firsthand, or if you have watched someone you deeply care about struggle with addiction, you understand just how baffling and powerful it can be. It might seem like a no-brainer — if you are suffering from severe consequences related to addiction, simply put down the drink or the drug. Just quit! Of course, it is far from this simple. Over time the brain adapts to the presence of the chemical substance, and drug or alcohol use becomes compulsive and uncontrollable. Understanding the Disease Model of Addiction is important to addiction recovery. At Guardian Recovery Network we focus on teaching our clients what makes addiction a disease, and how addiction recovery is made possible through this scientific model. To learn more about our comprehensive program of addiction recovery, contact us today.

The Definition of Addiction

The Disease Model of Addiction”  defines addiction as a “chronic, relapsing brain disease.” This phrase was coined and popularized by the former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and a leading neurologist in the field of addiction treatment, Alan I. Leshner.

In his extensive neurological studies on addiction, Leshner found that the brain of an addict or alcoholic fires differently than that of a normal person. The brain of an addict or alcoholic comes to prioritize its need for drugs and alcohol over all other survival instincts, including those for food, water, sex and shelter. This is why addicts and alcoholics often will go to any lengths to keep their addictions alive against all rational reasons to stop. This is also why addiction is so baffling to the family and loved ones of addicts and alcoholics who can’t make sense of why their loved one won’t “just quit.” Once an individual is addicted, brain scans show that the brain is essentially hijacked, rendering it next to impossible to stop without help.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as “a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.“

Alcoholics Anonymous echoes the Disease Model in its definition of addiction as a “three-fold illness” consisting of a physical allergy, a mental obsession and a spiritual malady.

An article published by Science Direct likewise agrees: “Scientific advances over the past 20 years have shown that drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease that results from the prolonged effects of drugs on the brain. As with many other brain diseases, addiction has embedded behavioral and social-context aspects that are important parts of the disorder itself. Therefore, the most effective treatment approaches will include biological, behavioral, and social-context components. Recognizing addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use can impact society’s overall health and social policy strategies and help diminish the health and social costs associated with drug abuse and addiction.”

All definitions of addiction point to the truth that addiction must be treated holistically and on multiple levels — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

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Addiction Can Be Treated, Not Cured

Addiction is similar to other chronic diseases (asthma, diabetes, arthritis) in the sense that it can be treated but never entirely cured. Take diabetes, for example. A person can take insulin on a daily basis and change his or her eating patterns, which could lead to a complete alleviation of all related symptoms. However, if this person stops taking insulin and starts eating copious amounts of junk food, the symptoms of the disease will inevitably return.

The same goes for addiction. If a person attends at least one Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on a daily basis, reaches out for help when help is necessary and continues working through unresolved trauma in individual therapy, he or she will likely not pick up a drink or a drug. But if his or her program of recovery is neglected and ignored for an extended period of time, relapse is almost inevitable. However, addiction is different from other chronic diseases in the sense that in order for a person to stay in remission, he or she must focus on emotional, mental and spiritual health as well as physical health. At Guardian Recovery Network we teach each and every one of our clients how to work towards comprehensive healing and develop the skills they need to stay sober for years to come.

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Combating the Stigma of Addiction

One of the biggest benefits of fully grasping the Disease Model of Addiction is helping break the stigma associated with substance abuse and dependence. Despite the fact that addiction affects millions of Americans on an annual basis, only a very small portion of the people who are in need of professional treatment end up actively seeking or receiving it. This is largely because of the widespread stigma that surrounds addiction — individuals might fear that if they enter into a long-term recovery program, they will face scrutiny and judgement from their families, peers or employers. The only way to reduce the stigma is to increase public education and help men and women who are struggling with addiction understand that there is no shame in asking for help and getting treatment. One must understand that at a certain point compulsive substance use becomes entirely uncontrollable. No amount of will power on one’s own can beat the strength of an addiction. Rest assured that at Guardian Recovery Network we treat each and every one of our clients with the kindness, compassion and understanding they deserve. We know that no one who is suffering at the hands of a substance abuse wants to be — or has chosen to be. They are battling a disease that is stronger than they are.

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The Guardian Recovery Network Approach to Recovery

Because addiction is a “chronic, relapsing brain disease” the brain must be re-wire itself in order for an individual to recovery. The brain has this capacity, but it takes time. The old method of treatment — a 28 day stay — has proven less effective than treatments that take at least 90 days. This is because it generally takes the brain a minimum of 90 days to start to re-route its circuitry.

With this in mind, Guardian Recovery Network has built a series of programs that work together to provide a streamlined progression through early recovery. We highly recommend entering into a multi-phased treatment program that moves you forward step-by-step. The journey generally begins with a medically monitored detox and progresses to inpatient treatment, followed by a thorough aftercare plan, which could include a Partial Hospitalization Program and/or Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP).  Throughout the phases of treatment, Guardian Recovery Network utilizes well-researched therapeutic interventions to treat addiction. Our continuum of care is comprehensive, individualized and designed to equip individuals with all the skills they could possibly need to successfully stand on their own two feet once treatment concludes.

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    The Therapeutic Methods We Employ

    It has been repeatedly proven that the best approach to addiction recovery is a combination of intensive therapy, 12-Step model, Medication Assisted Treatment options (whenever necessary) and a focus on psychological care in the case of a dual diagnosis disorder.

    At Guardian Recovery Network we utilize several evidence-based therapies, including:

    We believe that with the right set of tools in place, even people suffering from the most severe cases of addiction can come out the other side and go on to lead the healthy and fulfilling lives they deserve.

    Begin Your Journey of Recovery

    At Guardian Recovery Network we understand how deeply devastating active addiction can be, and we know that committing to a long-term program of clinical care can be overwhelming. For this reason we have developed an admissions process that is simple and straightforward. We aim to help you or your loved one enter into an appropriate level of clinical care as quickly and efficiently as possible. The moment you make the decision to contact us, we set to work developing a viable plan of action. We ask a short series of questions designed to ensure that you or your loved one is placed in the level of treatment that best suits his or her individualized needs. Next, we begin to work through coverage options. In addition to accepting most major regional and national health insurance we offer self-pay and private pay options. Finally we set a date and a time for intake and arrange transportation.

    A lifetime of fulfilling recovery is only a phone call away. To learn more about the treatment centers that are a part of the Guardian Recovery Network, or to learn more about the Disease Model of Addiction, contact us today.

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