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Conceptualizing Addiction Paper

Categories: Addiction


For many years, individuals have battled substance abuse and addiction. My position comes from hearing about it, having seeing results from it, and reading about it, also developing my own thoughts about addiction. Weil and Rosen (1993) believe that a drug use (and addiction) results from humans longing for a sense of completeness and wholeness, and searching for satisfaction outside of themselves. McNeece and DiNitto (2012) says the reason why people continue to use drugs to the point of becoming a physically and/ or psychologically dependent on them are more complex, some have tried to explain this phenomenon as a deficit in moral values, a disease, conditioning or learned behavior, or as a genetic prosperity.

Still some see it as a “rewiring” of the brain (Mc Neece & DiNitto, 2012).

At this point, there is no one single theory that adequately explains addiction (McNeece & DiNitto, 2012). Addiction is not easily defined. For some, it involves the “continued, self-administered use of a substance despite substance- related problems, and it results in tolerance for the substance, withdrawal from the substance, and compulsive drug- taking behavior due to cravings” or drives to use the substance (Schuckit, 1992, p.

182). No single theory adequately describes the etiology of addiction or dependence (McNeece & DiNitto, 2012). Most models of addiction is an “addictive disease” (Washton, 1989, p.55). In this paper will compare and contrast the moral model and the disease model conceptualizing addiction. Describe the two on how they take competing views on addiction, and a summary on a theory that can be most useful in helping to intervene on addiction.

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The Moral Model

One of earliest theories offered to explain the etiology of addiction is humankind’s sinful nature (McNeece & DiNitto, 2012). Since it is difficult to show empirical evidence of a sinful nature, the moral model of addiction has been generally discredited by modern scholars. However, the legacy of treating alcoholism and drug addiction as sin or moral weakness continues to influence public policies regarding alcohol and drug abuse (McNeece & DiNitt

o, 2012). Competing Views

The model appeals to our common sense because it is consistent with liberal views. In a liberal society, free will and individual autonomy are highly emphasized and valued ideals (Wilbanks, 1989). Addicts are conceived as free willed individuals making rational choices and the reason they engage in drug use is because they have bad morals. However, individuals with “good” morals are just likely to use drugs such as alcohol or marijuana. If this is the case other factors are present. In the face of reality, the moral model is insufficient to capture the phenomenon of drug addiction (Wilbanks, 1989).

The Disease Model

The disease model of addiction rests on three primary assumptions predisposition to use a drug, loss of control over use, and progression (Krivanek, 1988, p.202). These physiological alterations cause an undeniable desire to take more drugs (McNeece & DiNitto, 2012). Addicts are viewed as individuals with an incurable disease with drug addiction as the symptom. The disease model argues users cannot be held accountable for their addictions (Kirvanek, 1988).

Competing Views

As the disease model argues that there is no cure for addiction, the only treatments available aims to reduce or suppress the urge to use drugs (McNeece & DiNitto, 2012). Firstly, addicts are encouraged to acknowledge that they have a sickness that cannot be dealt with alone and to seek help from professionals such as counselors and therapist (Schaler, 1991). For instance, Narcotics Anonymous uses twelve step program where addicts must first admit that they are “powerless” over their addictions and must appeal to a “power greater” that themselves to overcome addictions. Critics of the disease model believes that it takes responsibility away from the addicts and instead characterizes them as victims (Schaler, 1991, Wilbanks 1989).

Compare and Contrast

The moral model describes addiction as exclusively a matter of choice, where the disease model illustrates it as something that is beyond the control of the individual. With the disease model choice is a factor only insofar as a person actually chooses to treat their disease, not in actually feeding of having the addiction to begin with (McNeece & DiNitto, 2012). For instance, where the moral model conceptualizes addiction as a matter or weakness or sin, the public response within this framework is naturally one where the only appropriate action is a corrective or punitive one (McNeece & DiNitto, 2012).

Theory most helpful to intervene on Addiction

The two models are very different, with the moral model essentially discounting most of what hard sciences offers, and the disease model embracing it to a large degree (Miller & Gold, 1990). Morality concept in addiction offer the counselor, and client very little to build on in terms of congruence, because they also dismiss physiological, and neurobiological factors as a cause of addiction (McNeece & DiNitto, 2012). So with that been said the disease model would be most useful helping to intervene on addiction. Conversely the disease model allows the counselor to illustrate an individual’s addiction as something that can be explained in terms of hard science, as well as in terms of how an individual has certain obligations inside the healing process (Comer, 2004).


In conclusion writing this paper was very interesting, and informational learning about the different models they have to help with drug or alcohol addiction. Comparing and contrasting the moral model and the disease model was helpful in understanding the differences they both had to offer, and competing views. Also being able to choose one model to which would be helpful in intervention of addiction was pretty interesting doing research, and learning that the disease model would work well for intervention purposes. Lastly, McNeece & DiNitto (2012), says no single theory adequately describes the etiology of addiction or dependence.

McNeece, C. A., & DiNitto, D. M. (2012). Chemical dependency: A systems
approach (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. Krivanek, J. (1988). Heroin: Myths and realities Sydney: Allen & Unwin. Schaler, J. A. (2000). Addiction is a choice. Chicago: Open court. Schuckit, M. A. (1992). Advances in understanding the vulnerability to alcoholism. In C.P. O’Brien & J. H. Jaffe (Eds.). Addiction states (pp.93-108). New York: Raven Press Wahshton, A. M. (1988). Cocaine addiction: Treatment, recovery, and relapse prevention. New York: W. W. Norton. Wilbanks, W. (1989). The danger in viewing addicts as victims: A critique of the disease model of addiction. Criminal Justice Policy. Comer, R. J. (2009). Fundamentals of abnormal psychology. New York: Worth Miller, N. S., Gold M. (1990).The disease and the adaptive models of addiction. A re-evaluation Journal of Drug Issues, 20(1), 29-30

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Conceptualizing Addiction Paper. (2016, Jun 15). Retrieved from

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