Ways of Understanding Opioid Addiction
- Moral/Spiritual Model of Addiction
Many Americans understand addiction as a moral and spiritual failing. In this way of thinking, addiction treatment mainly involves improving one’s behavior through discipline and spirituality. When addicts, their families, or their peers view addiction as only a moral failure, addicted individuals may be discouraged from seeking medical help which can be life-saving. Avoiding medical help deprives individuals of a full diagnostic evaluation, which may reveal other problems related to the substance use. The resources of medication and counseling can prevent relapse and possible overdose during the most dangerous times of withdrawal and recovery. Some addicts who do seek help from medication-assisted treatment like methadone or buprenorphine may have difficulty finding support from 12-step programs, peers, or family members who may not realize the important role that medication can play in addiction recovery.An understanding of addiction that does not take into account its biological factors can make patients who seek help from medication feel “weak” and ashamed, despite the scientifically proven benefits of MAT. Patients who feel pressured by peers or family to stop medications prematurely may experience symptoms that lead to relapse.
- Medical Model of Addiction
Medication-assisted treatment programs for opioid addiction are based on a “medical model” of addiction. Physicians in these programs believe that biological factors determine addiction and its effects on the brain and body. There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that chronic drug use changes the brain, including its receptors and function, in ways that can be measured. The medical model views addiction as a chronic (long-lasting) disease, similar to life-long diseases like diabetes. In this model, addicts can benefit from medical treatment just as diabetics benefit from insulin. [Link to “Understandings of Addiction” Flyer] — Frank, D. (2011). “The trouble with morality: the effects of 12-step discourse on addicts’ decision-making.” J Psychoactive Drugs 43(3): 245-256. Frank, D. (2011).