Experts recognize drug treatment comes in two forms, based upon either seeing addiction as a disease or as a failure to cope. For instance, twelve step programs and centers see addiction as a disease. They promote guiding principles to facilitate acknowledging a lack of control over one’s addiction and building relationship with a higher power in order to quit.
Addiction as a Disease
Along these lines, the American Psychological Association and its publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) also see addiction as a mental illness. The DSM, the standardized text and clinical reference used by psychologists and therapists across North America to diagnose their clients, explains that the activation of the brain’s reward system is the key to drug abuse problems. Furthermore, although drugs and alcohol can have a physical and psychological addiction, it is possible to develop an addiction to other behaviors and any activity that become the sole focus of one’s life to the exclusion and detriment of other life-activities. According to the American Psychological Association, there is evidence that points to behaviors, such as gambling, having the same high, or rush in the brain, that is similar to the use of drugs. In that way, addictions can resemble the physiological symptoms that the use of drugs and alcohol might create.
Seeing addiction as a disease, especially addictions to street drugs such as heroin, is one reason why drug addiction treatment includes more drugs. For instance, the synthetic opiate buprenorphine is used to treat heroin addicts during their drug detox and even throughout drug treatment aftercare.
Addiction as a Failure to Cope
However, another way of seeing addiction is a failure to cope. Treatment methods that see addiction and recovery in this way tend to rely more on behavioral therapies and communities. By providing individuals with the tools they need to meet the challenges of life, they won’t be inclined to reach for drugs as a coping mechanism.
For instance, motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral therapy invite clients to explore how they would like to change and develop healthy ways to deal with stress and daily challenges. Instead of using the 12-step model, which sees addiction as a disease, various self-help groups facilitate recovery in individuals by using cognitive behavioral and educational approaches. Furthermore, therapeutic communities, even when they are affiliated with 12-step programs, are drug-free settings where addicts live together and learn healthy approaches to life. In other words, they learn new ways of dealing with life’s stressors with the help of former addicts and therapists.
Seeing Addiction as Both
Certainly, there are drug treatment centers that see addiction as both a disease and as an inability to cope and therefore incorporate various forms of treatment in their programs. Furthermore, individuals will be drawn to addiction for different reasons at different times in their life. It would important for a residential drug treatment program, for instance, to tend to recovery in both ways.
And forms of drug treatment can become more complicated if an addict also has a mental illness. Perhaps the addiction developed out of having the psychological disorder, and on the other hand, an addiction could develop out of the need to cope with the mental illness. Both can be true. However, no matter the situation, in these cases, an individual must receive treatment for both the psychological disorder as well as the addiction in order to fully recover. Both need to be treated separately.
Whether an addict develops an addiction out of a need to cope or simply because he or she was prone to the illness of addiction, drug treatment must tend both. Certainly, as research continues on the specific treatment needs and differences in causes behind addiction, substance abuse treatment will only improve.