May 8, 2012

Is addiction a disease?

I once worked as Executive Director for a Cincinnati outpatient substance abuse treatment program that supported alternatives to AA, groups like Women For Sobriety, SMART Recovery, LifeRing Secular Recovery and even Rational Recovery (which isn't technically a group).

I was fascinated to learn the diversity of attitudes towards the disease concept of addiction. This diversity turned into practical issues: What would work for our client? If AA hasn't been working, what way of looking at the issue would take the client to sobriety?

Our clinicians would use a screening tool we developed, and match clients with one or another recovery self-help/support model. Nearly everyone also stopped in at AA, but there's a reasonably large pool of meetings in our area, so it was possible to find compatible meetings.

People seemed to benefit. They stopped drinking or using, and avoided relapse even if AA had not worked for them before.

My takeaway was that neuroscience and disease models have contexts where they work, but in other contexts, or for nonbelievers, they are much less useful.

What counts for me is that everyone has a path they can actually use to take them to sobriety.

Link to original comment on Psychology Today:

Sober transcends "yes or no"

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