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The Concepts of Addiction

Addiction is a complex illness that affects you physically, psychologically, and socially. Its causes are equally wide-ranging. While extensive scientific research has explored the nature of addiction in recent decades, there is still debate about what addiction is and how we should conceptualize it.

Different concepts of addiction support different treatment approaches. Thinking of addiction as a disease suggests that medical treatments may be effective. Considering addiction as a choice means treatments should focus more on behavioral changes.

In practice, the most appropriate concept or treatment approach depends on the individual. Every person has a different experience of addiction and requires different tools to overcome it.

At Cirque Lodge, we combine various treatment approaches to provide the most effective treatment for your needs. This may include Cognitive-Behavioral therapy, experiential therapy, support groups, dual diagnosis, and family therapy. Medical experts will design and lead your treatment plan to help guide you to long-term recovery.

Addiction as a Disease

Addiction as a Disease

The disease model describes addiction as a set of chemical changes that happen in your brain. While still a debated concept, it is the one that is most used in treatment approaches.

Repeated drug use causes changes in the brain. When you take a drug, you experience a range of positive feelings such as euphoria and relaxation. Your brain connects this experience with the drug, producing an urge to take the substance again. With repeated drug use, these urges can be very intense and hard to resist.

The disease model emphasizes that brain changes are physical. If you scan the brain of someone with a substance use disorder, you find that certain areas look different from a healthy brain.

Understanding how addiction affects the brain helps us explain why recovery from addiction is a long process. These brain changes may last for years or even be permanent. Even after long periods of sobriety, your brain may still produce intense urges to take a substance in response to certain triggers. This is why addiction is a chronic disease.

Many of those who see addiction as a disease believe that effective addiction treatment programs should involve medication and behavioral therapy. Medication can interfere with signals from the brain to help reduce urges and cravings. Behavioral therapy helps you develop skills to avoid and cope with triggers.

Some psychologists believe we may find a cure for addiction that involves healing the affected areas of the brain, removing the urge to use a substance.

Addiction As a Choice

Addiction As a Choice

The choice model of addiction claims that a person develops a drug addiction because they choose to do so.

It emphasizes users’ conscious choice to engage in addictive behavior even when they know it has harmful consequences. The choice model is not incompatible with the disease model. Some people believe that both are accurate to some extent.

For instance, you may think that the first few times someone takes a drug, it is their own choice. However, it becomes increasingly hard to control. Repeated drug use affects our natural reward system, and we become more impulsive with less thought of the future.

Treatment approaches rely on the choice model less than the disease model. Treatment approaches that use the choice model focus on the idea that quitting addiction is also the individual’s choice. Treatment plans aim to help you make changes in your life that make it easier to choose not to use a drug.

This involves exploring your circumstances to identify the underlying social and behavioral factors that cause your addiction. These may include friendship groups, a lack of coping strategies, or strained relationships with family members. Family therapy can be an important part of this approach.

Once these factors are identified, treatment aims to help change your behaviors and circumstances, so you choose not to use a drug.

Addiction as a Product

Addiction as a Product

Addiction as a product focuses on the underlying issues that cause addiction.

It considers alcohol and drug addiction as a product of other factors such as co-occurring mental health conditions, childhood trauma, and medical factors. According to the product model, individuals use alcohol and drugs to try and suppress these issues.

Addiction as a product considers substance use to be a maladaptive coping strategy. People might not use to feel ‘high’ – they might use to kill their pain.

Treatment approaches based on the product model use therapy or EMDR to look into the emotional and psychological factors that fuel your addiction. Continued and effective therapy aims to help you recover from and cope with these issues.

The product concept does not contradict the choice or disease concepts of addiction. Both the choice and disease concepts accept that underlying emotional and psychological factors contribute to addiction. The product model simply emphasizes these factors as the most important and focuses treatment on them.

Treating Addiction

Treating Addiction

At Cirque Lodge, we believe that all three concepts are relevant to alcohol and drug addiction treatment.

Research has shown that the most effective treatment programs are adapted to suit the needs of each individual. Different people have different experiences of addiction and respond better to different models. Some concepts will be more useful to them than others.

If you are struggling with heroin addiction, you may feel you have no control over your substance use. It may not be helpful for someone to tell you that you can choose to stop using it. In this case, the disease concept of addiction may be more suitable.

On the other hand, if you are a recovering alcoholic who one day decided to stop drinking and maintained sobriety for years afterward, the choice model of addiction may make more sense to you.

At Cirque Lodge, we treat you as an individual. Our treatment program begins with an in-depth assessment by medical professionals to identify your individual needs. This includes a psychological, neuropsychological, and physical assessment.

Our rehabilitation program offers various approaches, including behavioral therapies, experiential therapy, support groups, dual diagnosis, and family therapy. Surrounded by mountains, our treatment facilities support a range of enriching practical activities so you can learn and reinforce skills in a unique way.

We design your program according to your needs to provide you with the most effective treatment.

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