Chronic Disease Model


Addiction is a complex disease affecting the brain and the body that involves compulsive use of one or more substances despite negative consequences. Addiction disrupts the parts of the brain that are responsible for judgment, memory, reward, and motivation. Addiction results in serious health and social consequences, damaging various body systems as well as families, relationships, jobs, and communities. Chemical dependency is defined as a disease by most medical associations, including the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Like other chronic diseases, addiction is caused by a combination of environmental, behavioral, and biological factors. Over time, addiction changes the functioning of both the brain and the body. If left untreated, addiction becomes more disabling, severe, and life-threatening. In 1956, the American Medical Association classified alcohol abuse as an illness, and ten years later, it was classified as a disease. In 1974, the American Medical Association classified drug abuse as a disease. The disease model of addiction describes addiction as a chronic, progressive, and fatal disease with biological, genetic, neurological, and environmental origins.

Addiction is a brain disease that is characterized by altered brain structure and functioning. These brain abnormalities cause people to become addicted to substances once exposure occurs. This model considers addiction to be irreversible once acquired. Recovery from substance abuse involves developing and maintaining complete abstinence because abstinence arrests the disease. Once arrested, the disease of addiction is not absent, but dormant. Addiction was once considered and still is by some people, a moral weakness. Thankfully, due to decades of research, the disease model of addiction was developed. Not everyone agrees with the disease model though. Some people still argue that addiction is a bad habit that can be “unlearned.” We know that only a small percentage of people who experiment with drugs become addicted. Research shows that the brains of those who become addicted are often genetically and neurologically different before drug use even begins. Environmental influences, such as how a person was raised, can also affect the onset and course of addiction.


When basic needs such as hunger and thirst are satisfied, people feel pleasure. These feelings of pleasure are caused by the release of certain chemicals in the brain. Most addictive substances cause the brain to release high levels of these same chemicals that are associated with pleasure or reward. Over time, continued release of these chemicals causes changes in the regions of the brain associated with reward, memory, and motivation. The addicted individual may experience intense cravings for the addictive substance and continue to use it despite the harmful consequences. He or she will also prefer the substance to other healthy pleasures and may lose interest in normal activities. In many cases, addiction can cause a person to stop caring about their own well-being or survival. Although the initial decision to use substances are a person’s free choice and decision, once the brain has been changed by addiction, that choice and willpower becomes impaired. One of the most defining symptoms of addiction is the loss of control over using substances. These changes that occur in the brain can remain for a long time, even after the individual stops using substances.


Chronic disease is a long-lasting medical condition that can be controlled or managed, but not cured. Addiction is a progressive, relapsing disease that requires intensive treatments and continuing care and monitoring. Even the most severe, chronic forms of addiction can be manageable and reversible, usually with long-term treatment and continued support. Like type II diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, addiction is a chronic disease. Like other chronic diseases, addiction has a tendency to run in families, has an onset and course that is influenced by environmental conditions and behavior, and has the ability to respond to the appropriate treatment, which often involves long-term lifestyle modifications.


At Nishan Rehab, we believe in the disease model of addiction. We recognize that our clients are dealing with a chronic, progressive, and potentially fatal disease. This is why we are so dedicated to helping clients detox safely and comfortably through our medically-supervised detox. Our compassionate and experienced team of staff members is comprised of medical doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, and addiction specialists. All of us at Nishan Rehab are committed to helping you detox safely, so you can be in the right frame of mind for further addiction treatment. Detox is an important first step towards reclaiming your life. For more information on our detox and how we can help you and your loved one, reach out to us today at 0300-2255606.

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