The Disease Concept of Addiction

For many addiction is a problem whether it be alcohol or drugs, pornograpy, gambling or shopping.. Many people strugging with their addiction also struggle with loved ones’ negative judgements about their addiction. I have heard many times either addicts or loved ones talk about their addiction as a “lack of will power” or being “morally corrupt.” Both these statements are not only harmful to the addict, but are also incorrect.

Addiction is a disease that has a natural course like any disease such as diabetes, asthma or cancer. If left untreated the addict will progress through various stages in their addiction with the final destination either being “jails, institutions, or death.”

E.M. Jellinek has done a lot of research on Alchoholism and has published the Jellinek Curve that outlines the various stages one with alcoholism goes through. Although each individual may not go through the stages in an exact succession such as 1-2-3, they will make a linear progression.

Since addiction is a disease, it is best treated through an approach that incorporates one’s spiritual, mental, physical and emotional needs. It is also a disease that effects the family and effective treatment should also incorporate the family as well as the individual.

Treatment should involve individual therapy, involvement in the 12-step community for the addict as well as the family and family therapy. Community 12-step meetings are available everywhere and at various times throughout the day, eliminating any excuses for not attending. Family members can be a healthy support by setting boundaries and acknowledging that addiction is a disease.

Shannon T. Brewer, M.A., L.P.A.

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