Disease model proponents, however, recall times when addiction was considered a moral failing, a personal weakness, or an indication of poor character. As a result, shame and fear prevented many addicts from seeking much needed treatment. Treating substance abuse and dependency as a disease has removed harmful stereotypes that serve to keep people trapped in addiction. However, calling addiction a disease traps people in a different way. Often, addicts are inclined to give up hope upon being told they have a chronic, incurable disease, or they may believe that addressing the addiction will require a lifetime of treatment following by constant struggle and repeated threat of backsliding.
We at Paracelsus believe that addiction is a complex disorder that isn’t easily explained by either school of thought. Our philosophy is that addiction isn’t a disease in the traditional sense, nor is it a simple matter of willpower, as urges to continue substance use or addictive behavior are extremely powerful and can be overwhelming. However, we know that willpower and motivation certainly play a critical role in recovery, as do the physical, social and even political environments.
Addiction treatment requires a truly individualized approach, and there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. The tendency to explain away problems with simple reasons and predictable “fixes” is the reason why some treatment models, including Twelve-Step programs, have single-digit success rates.
We also believe that the concept of a hard-wired brain is becoming outdated. Taking its place, as neuroscientists clearly point out, is the truth that the brain is versatile and plastic, and that new structures are reinforced and established constantly by learning, repetition and habit.