Breaking Down the Theories of Addiction

Legacy Healing Center Blog

Addiction is a complex experience that affects millions of people all around the world. It is a chronic, recurrent disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite the harmful consequences. There are many theories of addiction, each of which offers a unique perspective on why people become addicted and how it can be treated. Below, learn more about these theories with Legacy Healing Center.

The Disease Model

The disease model is a theory that believes that addiction is a chronic brain disease that is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors. According to the disease model, addiction is a progressive illness that gets worse over time. Additionally, this model states that though it cannot be cured, it can be managed with ongoing treatment, which explains the commonly used phrase “recovery from addiction is a lifelong process.” This is one of the most widely accepted theories of addiction and is employed during our own recovery programs.

The Behavioral Model

Almost the opposite of the disease model is the behavioral model, which suggests that addictive behaviors are learned through the process of classical and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning occurs when a neutral stimulus, such as a drug or a specific location, becomes associated with a pleasurable or aversive experience. Over time, this association can lead to cravings and compulsive drug-seeking behavior. Operant conditioning occurs when a behavior is reinforced or punished, leading to an increase or decrease in the frequency of the behavior. In the case of addiction, the reinforcing effect of drugs can lead to repeated drug use.

The Gateway Theory

There is also the gateway theory that suggests the use of one drug can lead to the use of other, more dangerous substances. This theory states that people start with less harmful drugs, such as marijuana or alcohol, and then progress to more dangerous drugs, such as cocaine or heroin. According to this theory, prevention efforts should focus on reducing access to gateway drugs in order to better avoid the likelihood of escalation towards a greater problem.

The Self-Medication Model

The self-medication model suggests that people use drugs as a way to cope with underlying emotional or psychological problems. For many, addiction is a symptom of a larger problem, such as anxiety, depression, or trauma, and people use drugs as a way to self-medicate and alleviate these symptoms. This commonly escalates into a full-blown dual diagnosis. Co-occurring disorders of this nature can be debilitating, and according to this theory, addiction can only be treated by addressing the underlying emotional or psychological problems.

The Social Learning Model

The social learning model of addiction states that it is learned through observation and modeling. It is believed that people become addicted because they observe others using drugs and perceive that drug use is socially acceptable or beneficial. In this way, addiction is seen as a result of social and cultural factors rather than simply an individual problem. It highlights the importance of spreading awareness about the dangers of substance abuse and why educating people who are highly impressionable, especially teens and young adults, is so crucial.

Recover With Legacy

If you have found yourself in the middle of a substance use disorder, it is imperative that you seek out the necessary services to help you recover. For instance, quitting a drug cold turkey can present a variety of adverse side effects and, depending on the substance, can even put a person’s life at risk. These individuals are encouraged to seek out withdrawal treatment at our Legacy Healing detox centers.

Once physical symptoms have been managed, a patient is placed into the appropriate addiction treatment programs where real progress will be made. Through our curriculum of therapy programs and care levels, patients can rest assured that they are getting a recovery experience that is customized to their needs.

To learn how Legacy can help you achieve long-lasting healing, call us today at 888-534-2295.

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