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Fundamental Perspectives

While there are already many perpectives on addiction, new theories emerging as science continues to observe addiction and its associated behaviors. However, generally speaking, the traditional demarcation is between the behavioral and medical modalities.

We as humans we tend to over simplify, or speak in absolutes when it comes to our ideals and beliefs - the things we're passionate about, rather than understanding a topic by its dynamic whole. For this reason, we encourage you to ignore the temptation to over simplify addiction as purely behavioral, or purely medical. This lack of open-mindedness displaces you from the true problem, and this type of thinking is often resistant to change, the very thing you are championing for.

Behavioral Model

The most basic way of looking behavioral model is to think of the addict being fully responsible for his, or her addictions and that these people choose or have chosen to become the addict, and they hold the responsibility/discipline to get better. That is: people become addicted to a substance due to some moral, or character defect present in its user, either drawn on by the environment or an innate quality. While today we know that addiction is often tied to other mental health problems and occurs as we refer to, comorbidly, with other disease, generally this classification lacks a common understanding on the true cause. A bad childhood? An emotionally unstable personality? Either way, it blames the addict for their problem and holds them accountable to correct it, irregardless of any environmental factors. In this process, society is forced to deal with the burden of the addict and often times this leads to "resocializing" the individual through lockup, or punishment.

Medical Model

The medical model of addiction argues that addiction has biological underpinnings/proceses, similar to most diseases. As a result, this modality is used to diagnose, treat, cure the disease of addiction. It is more persuasive in the sense of what we know about the brain. With the latest imaging technology such as functional MRIs can show fundamental differences in the "hot spots" of the brain. Subsequently, this provides the empiricle evidence (evidence through observation) needed to evaluate addiction through the scientific method. Although the "empiricle science of the brain" is fairly new phenomenon, it has proven itself, much like psychology/psychiatry, to be more than a quasi/pseudo science. As a result, this model takes some responsibility away from the addict and places it on one's own biology. Of course, the argument can be made that we can hold the addict responsible for the first (or several times) of use, but eventually it reaches a point of no return and leads to a disease-of-will state. And much like any medical science, it attempts to treat the symptoms in the hope over the long term that the individual can regain a stable baseline necessary for full on recovery. One drawback to this approach is its ability to explain addiction just like most diseases can only be treated symptomatically and not everyone can be cured. This view typically is more understanding in the case where an addict cannot get clean - like some diseases, there is simply no cure, or the cure doesn't work the same for every individual.

Other perspectives

While there are certainly more perspectives than the above mentioned, everyday we will continue to redefine addiction through the psycho-social zeitgeist of our time. An example of this important consideration is made when looking at the legalization of medicinal marajuana (even for depression, rather than cancer). "The times, they are a changing." Somewhere down the line, the models we use today to look at addiction with deprecate when better science emerges. We encourage you to keep an open mind on these perspectives and treat them for what they are - perspectives, not ultimate truth.

The Full Picture

The best way to look at addiction is an "unbiased observer". Generally speaking, unless you have been through addiction first hand yourself, either with your own addiction, or had insight from someone close to you - you cannot truly understand what it is like to be an addict. In order to understand addiction, you must be able/willing to see addiction through the addict's eyes to gain the full perspective on what's happening. While to the distant observer, it may seem overly obvious what must be done to get better. On the other hand, things aren't often as simple as they appear. Sometimes addiction can be brought on by another mental illness, or childhood abuse. The moral of the story is don't hasten to judge others without understanding openly or experiencing addiction first hand.

Article Last Updated: 09-14-2011

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