What is the disease concept of addiction? It says simply that addiction is a disease. Many treatments of addiction are based on this idea. Most experts working in the field of addiction and the general public believe this is the best way of understanding the clinical nature of addiction. The disease concept states that addiction is a specific disease to which some people are vulnerable. It was first proposed in the late 1930's in America when it was only applied to alcoholism. The disease is progressive, because those who are vulnerable to it, start with normal social drinking, they then progress to ever greater amounts, to private and secret drinking, to developing an increased tolerance to alcohol and to experiencing withdrawal distress if drinking is interrupted; they begin to have blackouts and forget the previous day's drinking. Those who have the disease will eventually not be able to control their drinking, because the disease produces the disability of "loss of control" or "powerlessness" over drinking. Addiction progresses stage by stage in a regular and standard fashion. This standard course is the same for everyone who is sick and is therefore transindividual. Once the disease takes hold difference goes out the door. Eventually every addict will hit "rock-bottom" in the form of a physical and/or emotional breakdown and premature death in the final step, unless with luck, or God's puce or indeed the help of AA, NA, GA, SA, etc., or another kind of treatment the addict manages a radical conversion to total abstinence. Abstinence is the only hope as the disease is incurable.

 

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