Substance Abuse: Compaing the Medical/Disease Model and the Social Model

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Many people dislike the term ‘addiction’ in relation to drugs or other substances, particularly as it infers that a person is powerless over their use of a particular drug or in some circumstances, a number of substances. Whilst others maintain it is this powerlessness that is the foundation of diagnosis and treatment – that treatment is not possible without recognition of addiction itself as the ‘problem’ being addressed. The professional and public perception of addiction is complicated. There are many approaches and models to explain addiction, the role of the addict, and their environment. This essay will compare and contrast two of these approaches, the medical/disease and the social model. Initially this essay will describe the …show more content…
Firstly, the disease model. In 2007 the American government passed the Recognizing Addiction as a Disease Act (S10.11, Online). This bill redefined addiction, stated that from that moment, addiction should be defined as a chronic and relapsing brain disease. The act then renamed health institutions working with addicts to reflect the new stance and to try and reduce social stigma associated with drug addiction. The belief was that by removing social stigma, the drug user may experience a reduction in shame and in turn, this may encourage their decision to seek treatment. For this reason, the anonymous 12 step programs which are synonymous with the medical/disease model of addiction strives first and foremost to reduce shame associated with addiction. This model allows the participant to view the addiction as out of their control, just like any other psychological condition and with that knowledge, gain control over their lives.

The disease model of addiction is the primary legal medical definition, and in 2011 the American Society of Addiction Medicine released a statement that addiction is an “inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioural control, and craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviours and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response” (The American Society of Addiction Medicine, 2011). The consensus with this definition of the

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