Webb Therapy Uncategorized Addiction Theories

Addiction Theories

There have been various theories and models proposed over time to help us understand why individuals use alcohol and other drugs, and why some people become dependent or ‘addicted’ but not others. The following are several models or theories of addiction. They reflect the political, medical, spiritual, and social forces of those times in history.

The Moral Model

Alcohol and tobacco was introduced in the Western countries during the 1500’s. The widespread use and misuse of chemical substances resulted in a range of social problems and it was thought by some that substance use was “problematic” and “morally wrong” (Lassiter & Spivey, 2018). The moral model viewed AOD dependency as a moral and personal weakness that involved a lack of self-control, and was often viewed as a potential danger to society (Stevens & Smith, 2014).

The moral model considered addiction a “sin” and a result of free, yet irresponsible, choice. Therefore, many politically conservative groups, religious groups, and legal systems tended to punish the individual who uses AOD. The moral model or attitude towards addiction can still be seen today in certain cultures. Those who still believe addiction is morally “wrong” tend to perceive the most appropriate way to treat the individuals who use AOD are through legal sanctions, such as imprisonment and fines. For example, in many countries, drivers who are caught under the influence of alcohol or other drugs are not considered for treatment programs but instead receive court sentences as punishments (Fisher & Harrison, 2017).

This model has been rejected by alcohol and other drugs professionals as unscientific and contributes to the stigma surrounding addiction and substance use (White, 1991, cited in Fisher & Harrison, 2017).

The Disease Model

This model takes up the medical viewpoint and proposes addiction as a disease or illness that an individual has. It proposed that addiction is a disease that is progressive and chronic whereby the individual holds no control as long as the substance use continues. In other words, their addiction will continue to deteriorate with the continuous AOD (Thombs & Osborn, 2019). It also proposes that individuals who uses AOD can never be cured from addiction, though it can be readily treated through sustained abstinence such as self-help fellowships and treatment community. 

In the 1940s, Jellinek proposed a disease model in relation to alcoholism, arguing that it is a disease caused by a physiological deficit in an individual, making the person permanently unable to tolerate the effects of alcohol (Stevens & Smith, 2014). Jellinek identified signs and symptoms and clustered them into stages of alcoholism, as well as progression of the disease, which form the basis of 12-step or Anon-type programs (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous; Stevens & Smith, 2014). 

Under the disease model, treatment requires complete abstinence. Once an individual has accepted the reality of their addiction and ceased substance use, they are labelled as being in recovery, but are never ‘cured’ (e.g., “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic”; Thombs & Osborn, 2019). Whilst originally applied to alcohol dependency, it has now been generalised to other substances and many traditional substance use treatment models are based on this model (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2020; Stevens & Smith, 2014).

The disease model offered an alternative to the moral theory, helping to remove the moral stigma attached to addiction and replacing it with an emphasis on treatment of an illness (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2020). Disease theory helped to explain how some people experience the physiological effects of addiction such as dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal more than others, and how these mechanisms are caused by a biochemical abnormality in an individual which increases their likelihood of developing a dependency (DiClemente, 2018). 

While the disease model was well received by a range of professionals, many criticised it because research did not find that the progressive, irreversible progression of addiction through stages always occurs as predicted (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2020). Additionally, many in the AOD field argued that the model did not address the complex interrelated factors that accompany dependency (Stevens & Smith, 2014). Finally, some professionals argued that the concept of addiction being a disease may also convey the impression to some individuals that they are powerless over their dependency and/or not responsible for the consequences of destructive addictive behaviours, which can be counteractive to treatment (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2020).

Genetic and Neurobiological Theories

These theories suggest that some people may be genetically predisposed to develop drug dependency. For example, individuals usually begin substance use on an experimental basis. They then continue using because there is some reinforcement for doing so (e.g., a reduction of pain, experience of euphoria, social recognition, and/or acceptance, etc.). Some people may continue to use substances in a controlled or recreational manner with limited consequences while others progress to non-medical use and eventually develop a dependency. Why? Genetic and neurobiological theories propose that this is the result of a genetic predisposition to drug dependency (Fisher & Harrison, 2017). 

Factors being considered by researchers in the genetic transmission of dependency on alcohol include neurobiological features such as an imbalance in the brain’s production of ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters or in the metabolism of ethanol, which is the key component of alcohol (Stevens & Smith, 2014). Other researchers explored genetic differences in temperament and personality traits which they argued may lead to certain individuals becoming more vulnerable in the face of challenging environmental circumstances, leading to AOD use (Stevens & Smith, 2014). Genetic predispositions such as these may explain why some individuals develop dependency on AOD while others in similar situations do not.

The Psycho-dynamic Model

This model proposes that substance use may be due to an unintentional response to some difficulties that an individual experienced in their childhood. This explanation is based on the theory that was put forward by Sigmund Freud, whereby the problems of whether we are able to cope with difficulties as adults are linked to our childhood experience. Many counselling approaches today are based on this theory which aim to seek understanding of people’s unconscious motivations and to enhance how they view themselves (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2020).

The Psycho-dynamtic model also believes that AOD use is often secondary to a primary psychological issue. In other words, alcohol and other drugs is a symptom rather than a disorder, and AOD use is a means to temporarily relieve or numb emotional pain. For example, an individual suffering from depression might self-medicate with stimulants to relieve the enervating effects of depression or manage their anxiety by using benzodiazepines (Fisher & Harrison, 2017). 

There is evidence to support this model, whereby childhood traumatic events are associated with mental health problems and substance use disorders. Wu et al. (2010) conducted a study among 402 adults who were receiving substance use disorder treatments. They revealed that almost all (95%) of the participants experienced one or more childhood traumatic events, and 65.9% of them experienced emotional abuse and neglect from their childhood. The authors also reported that the higher the number of childhood traumatic events experienced, the higher the risk of substance use disorders and mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Personality Traits

Some theorists suggest that certain individuals have certain personality traits that are linked to AOD dependency. For example, dependency on alcohol has been associated with traits such as developmental immaturity, impulsivity, high reactivity and emotionality, impatience, intolerance, and inability to express emotions (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2020).

Social Learning Model

This model suggests that social learning processes such as observing other peoples behaviours (i.e., modelling) and cultural norms are important in the process of learning behaviours. Albert Bandura proposed Social Learning Theory which would argue that substance use is initiated by environmental stressors or modelling people around you with “perceived status”. For example, a child observes their parents use alcohol in social situations and the child is therefore more likely to perceive that AOD use for social situations is appropriate (Harrison & Fisher, 2017); the association between socialisation and alcohol has been established.

The social learning model also recognises the influence of cognitive processes such as coping, self-efficacy, and outcome expectancies. Some researchers are currently focusing on how an individuals expectation of the effects of drugs influence the pattern of AOD use and resulting dependency. Russell (1976, cited in Wise & Koob, 2013) suggested that dependency on substance is not only chemical (biological) but also behavioural and social in nature. 

It has also been suggested that substance use occurs when an individual thinks substance use is a coping mechanism. This can be learned from television and film, social medial, peer influence, or messages from caregivers during childhood. The individual hopes the AOD use will relieve from them from stress (Stevens & Smith, 2014). 

Socio-cultural Model

Different from the previous models, the socio-cultural model perceives substance use as an issue of society as a whole instead of focusing only on the individual. People tend to overestimate the influence of internal and psychological factors while underestimating the external and environmental factors, even among some alcohol and other drugs workers (Gladwell, 2000, cited in Lewis, Dana, & Blevins, 2015). Thus, this model highlights the importance of how society shapes substance use behaviours, such as cultural attitudes, peer pressures, family structures, economic factors, and more (Bobo & Husten, 2000). For example, Coffelt et al. (2006) found that parents’ alcohol use are associated with their children’s drinking behaviour, whereby when the adult’s alcohol problems increased, the likelihood of their adolescent child’s alcohol use increased. 

The Biopsychosocial Model

Substance use behaviour cannot be explained or understood scientifically or spiritually based on a single variable, antecedent, or “cause”. Biological, psychological, learning, social and cultural context all contributes to explaining why addiction develops and maintains. The interactions between these factors are presented in The Biopsychosocial Model – arguably the most commonly used model to explain addiction today. The model suggests that substance use and the progression of substance dependency can be explained by recognising that the body and mind are connected within a social and cultural context (Skewes & Gonzalez, 2013).

The model allows any combination of biological, psychological, social and cultural factors to contribute to AOD misuse and dependency, rather than a single dominating factor. This is much more holistic and integrative when attempting to understand the determinant of addiction (Stevens & Smith, 2014).

References:

  1. Bobo, J. K., & Husten, C. (2000). Sociocultural influences on smoking and drinking. Alcohol Research and Health, 24(4), 225-232. 
  2. Capuzzi, D., & Stauffer, M. D., Sharpe, C. W. (2020). History and etiological models of addiction. In D. Capuzzi, & M. D. Stauffer (Eds.), Foundations of addictions counseling (pp. 1-22). Pearson Education.
  3. Coffelt, N. L., Forehand, R., Olson, A. L., Jones, D. J., Gaffney, C. A., Zens, M. S. (2006). A longitudinal examination of the link between parent alcohol problems and youth drinking: The moderating roles of parent and child gender. Addictive Behaviours, 31, 4, 593-605. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2005.05.034 
  4. DiClemente, C. C. (2018). Addiction and change: How addictions develop and addicted people recover. The Guilford Press.
  5. Fisher, G. L., & Harrison, T. C. (2017). Substance abuse: Information for school counsellors, social workers, therapists, and counsellors. Pearson Education. 
  6. Lassiter, P. S., & Spivey, M. S. (2018). Historical perspectives and the moral model. In P. S. Lassiter, & J. R. Culbreth (Eds.), Theory and practice of addiction counselling. (pp. 27-46). Sage Publications. 
  7. Lewis, J. A., Dana, R. Q., & Blevins, G. A. (2015). Substance abuse counselling. Cengage Learning.
  8. Skewes, M. C., & Gonzalez, V. M. (2013). The biopsychosocial model of addiction. In P. M. Miller, A. W. Blume, D. J. Kavanagh, K. M. Kampman, M. E. Bates, M. E. Larimer, N. M. Petry, P. D. Witte, S. A. Ball (Eds.), Principles of addiction: Comprehensive addictive behaviours and disorders (pp. 61-70). Academic Press.
  9. Stevens, P., & Smith, R. L. (2014). Substance abuse counselling: Theory and practice. Pearson Education. 
  10. Teesson, M., Hall, W., Proudfoot, & Degenhardt, L. (2012). Addictions. Taylor & Francis Group.
  11. Thombs, D. L., & Osborn, C. J. (2019). Introduction to addictive behaviours. The Guilford Press. 
  12. Wise, R. A., & Koob, G. F. (2013). The development and maintainance of drug addiction. Neuropsychopharmacology, 39, 254-262.
  13. Wu, N. S., Schairer. L. C., Dellor, E., & Grella, C. (2010). Childhood trauma and health outcomes in adults with comorbid substance abuse and mental health disorders. Addictive Behaviors, 35(1). 68-71. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2009.09.003 

Related Post

Anxiety, Anxiety Attacks, and Prolonged AnxietyAnxiety, Anxiety Attacks, and Prolonged Anxiety

I want to preface this post by stating that the concepts and suggestions I’ve made below are my own thoughts, opinions, and suggestions based on my own experience working in the mental health sector and lived experience. There may also be numerous grammatical and logical errors. I know that you’re intuitive enough to understand what I’m attempting to describe and explain. Therefore, there will be no references section at the end. This is merely an expression of thoughts, a stream of consciousness (William James coined the term Stream of Consciousness).

Episodic, acute, and chronic anxiety can be miserable and debilitating. Individuals living with anxiety have generally experimented with many techniques to cope with anxiety symptoms, and they have often been practicing these techniques for months, years, or decades. Anxiety is life changing. Current treatment can be efficacious at reducing the intensity or frequency of symptoms for the vast majority of people living with anxiety, but only at best. I, myself, have tried the deep breathing technique commonly advised by mental health professionals, and it can be about as useful as taking a sugar pill. There is credible science that supports deep breathing exercises can improve symptoms and recovery rates for stress, anxiety and depression levels – but what about for an anxiety attack or a panic attack or intense chronic symptoms of anxiety?

Sometimes nothing is effective enough for immediate relief. It is my contention that building a relationship with a trained psychiatrist, specialised in this domain, is an essential first step. Your treating specialist(s) will need to have extensive experience and a comprehensive understanding of the debilitating impacts of anxiety, anxiety attacks, and/or panic attacks. I recommend psychiatry because you will need someone who can prescribe short-term medication, schedule 4 or greater, to alleviate the pain rapidly. All symptoms a person may experience from any condition in the anxiety family present a risk for searching for any immediate relief. This is true for you or me or anyone. Without prompt and effective medical care readily available, many people who do not have a plan for managing anxiety will potentially search for an unhealthy substitute to acquire relief.

These substitutes are often unhelpful long term but effective short term. We all know what they are: alcohol and other drugs, sexual promiscuity or sex addiction, love addiction, gambling, excessive or unhealthy eating habits, self-injury, addictive forms of gaming, impulse spending, co-dependent or dependent behaviours on people, people pleasing, running away (avoiding reality), raging, reckless driving and other criminal behaviour, and relying on pharmaceuticals (legally prescribes or otherwise) that will have long-term unhealthy side effects. People know how to “doctor shop”, and although this area of medicine is becoming much more regulated, it still occurs. Unfortunately, there are people who do require certain types of legal drugs, in a timely manner, to find relief as a means of not engaging in any of the previously mentioned behaviours.

Some people may not have much faith in the field of psychiatry or psychology – HOWEVER – you may find yourself in a situation one day where you will need a doctor who knows your history to increase the likelihood of prescribing medication to treat anxiety when you need it most. This medication usually has addictive properties. An ethical psychiatrist will usually be unwilling to prescribe more than a single repeat of potentially addictive medication to treat their patients. This is standard, regulated medical practice in Australia.

Anyone working in the drug and alcohol sector or has regular contact with a person living with anxiety, or any form of addiction, will know that patients – people – are not being seen in a timely manner top treat anxiety before the patient starts looking elsewhere. Even once the patient has accessed some type of medical care, the length of care is not long enough for the patient to be “well enough” after discharge or ending their hourly session, to be on their own in the community safely without becoming vulnerable to their condition in a short time and looking for more relief to ease their pain and improve their well-being.

If a person or a patient cannot depend on the medical system in the way they need to feel safe and well, they will almost certainly begin to lose faith and trust in health professionals, and ‘the system’. This perpetuates their internalised stigma being reinforced, yet again.

I am not saying the patient doesn’t have a significant responsibly of their own to make valuable choices outside of medical treatment. I quote what someone once said to me, “You may not have asked for this disease, but it becomes our responsibility to stay well”. That is our duty as the person living with a health issue of any kind. There are things we certainly must do (or not do) to stay as healthy as possible. The help make not be there in a timely manner the next time we need immediate help.

It can take weeks or more to enter a detox facility. It can take months to enter a rehabilitation facility. It can take months for an available appointment to open with a psychiatrist. It becomes our responsibility to know that even when we’re feeling well and back to “normal”, we must continue those relationships with medication professionals. It becomes our responsibility to try alternative medicines if that’s something you’re interested in. Let’s face it, psychiatrists cease their practice, our professional relationship has reached it’s potential for adequate, loving care, or we want to try something new.

Start the process of finding a reliable, qualified, and credible psychiatrist today. I would recommend finding a counselling psychologist or other mental health professional that you have a productive and friendly working relationship with – and if you want to practice Buddhism, or acupuncture, or hypnotherapy, or any other complementary and alternative medicine – do it. If you want to connect with God – do it. If you want to see a naturopath – do it. Whatever it is, this may very well be a lifelong journey for you. Based on my own experience, don’t stop because you think you’re “all better now”. The previously mentioned professions or treatment options or lifestyle choices can be extremely expensive, but I would encourage you to save for it, find less expensive options. Sitting in church is free, or listening to an online guru can be the price or maintaining your mobile service bill.

I once knew of a fellow peer in treatment alongside me who said he saved money for years to travel overseas to have a procedure not available in Australia at the time for this purpose. He wanted blood transfusions and heat therapy for chronic pain that didn’t doctors could not determine had physiological origins. The peer was sure it had to, and medical investigations in Australia come up negative. The peer explained the theory behind blood transfusions and heat therapy – he believed – were supposed to improve his blood circulation and blood flow to treat the chronic pain he’d been living with for years after a workplace accident. Even this procedure overseas proved ineffective in mitigating his chronic pain. So, next he tried the wim hof method. He changed is diet. He exercised differently. He tried hypnotherapy. Finally, he turned psychology to treat stress and process childhood trauma. He was being treated for this a private facility where I was a patient at that time. I lost contact with him after I ended my own treatment episode. I don’t know if he’s still living with chronic pain or not.

The following are some very basic and well-known strategies in the Western world of psychology that you can begin to practice today, and then practice every day after that too – even for 5-20 minutes:

– learning about anxiety – your specific “causes” and the conditions more generally

– mindfulness

– relaxation techniques

– correct breathing techniques

– dietary adjustments

– exercise

– learning to be assertive

– building self-esteem

– cognitive therapy

– exposure therapy

– structured problem solving

– support groups

My firm believe is this:

Strong, healthy, quality relationships are essential to treating anxiety and other psychological illnesses. This about your life today: are you lonely (romantically or otherwise), are you a stressed individual, do you regularly feel like you job is stressful or unfulfilling, do you feel sad a lot, are you feeling pointless a lot, or feeling helpless a lot, feeling shame a lot, getting angry a lot over considerably minor things? etc. etc. etc. I would strongly encourage talking to a professional and begin exploring what options you have available to you.

Try, explore, play with a few methods of treatment. However, this must take a priority in your life. It must balance will all the many other obligations and responsibilities people encounter daily.

Type alternative medications or approaches to psychology. There are so many. It can be fun to try out a few when your finances permit. Even planning a holiday every 3-6 months is taking care of your well-being.

Many blessings friends.

Self-sabotage is self-sabotaging. Why would anyone do this?Self-sabotage is self-sabotaging. Why would anyone do this?

As I always like to say, there are as many reasons why people self-sabotage as there are people. A common theme is to protect the self from failure, feeling things we don’t want to feel, and to control our experiences.

One of the hidden culprits behind self-sabotage is the need for perfection and control. Self-sabotage has a strange way of helping us maintain the illusion that if only we had put in more effort or had better circumstances, everything would have worked out as it should. Social psychologists call this counter-intuitive strategy of regulating self-esteem ‘self-handicapping.’ It’s very seductive to engage in self-sabotage because the hidden payoff is high. It’s often easier to be a perfect whole rather than a real part. It’s a short-term solution that sidesteps the more arduous but ultimately more fulfilling work of individuation and self-realization. It takes risk, patience, suffering, and ultimately wisdom to come to the place where you can let go of self-sabotage and learn how to be real.

Behaviour is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems in daily life and interferes with long-standing goals. The most common self-sabotaging behaviors include procrastination, self-medication with alcohol and other drugs, comfort eating, and forms of self-injury such as cutting.

Self-sabotage originates in the internal critic we all have, the side that has been internalized by the undermining and negative voices we’ve encountered in our lives. This critic and ‘internal sabotuer,’ functions to keep the person from risking being hurt, shamed, or traumatized in the ways they had been in the past. While it keeps the individual safe, it does so at a very high cost, foreclosing the possibility of new, creative, and three-dimensional experiences. Like an addiction, self-sabotage insidiously lulls and deludes us into thinking that it has the answer. In fact, it is the problem masquerading as the solution. Nothing stops self-sabotage faster in its tracks than shining this particular light on it. Consciousness is true power. We need to let go of our illusions of omnipotence and perfection and see that it is only when we are real and imperfect that we can create a true work of art. Then and only then we can enjoy the gifts of being Real.

– Michael Alcée, Ph.D., Relational therapist/ Clinical psychologistArt: Bawa Manjit, Acrobat

Self-Sabotage | Psychology Today Australia