The ‘Psychology of Addiction’ & Addiction Treatment

Are we diseased? Are we confused? Or is the confusion the disease?

Addiction Psychology aims to help you understand the haunting “Why” behind the reason that you are looking at this website!

Why do some people get addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, food etc and others don’t?

Theories abound within the various disciplines of the scientific and the medical world and yet the confusions of the simple folk simply multiply about addictions. Psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and doctors offer a wide and verifying selection of solutions, conclusions, suggestions, and medications, yet in reality nothing is changing and the cancer of addiction spreads!



The deeper the scientific researchers dig, the more confused they become about the fact that each and every ‘theory’ can only ever really offer ‘some’ of the truth at best, and if that sounds confusing, it gets worse!

There are 5 common Addiction Models that we can and indeed must realistically consider if we are to truly establish what it is you are suffering from and in need of. Over the next few articles we want to explore with you the following 5 models of contemporary addiction definitions and treatment models:

  1. Moral
  2. Medical
  3. Psychological
  4. Socio/Cultural
  5. Spiritual

The Moral Model

People who abuse chemicals and go onto become destructively chemically dependent are:

  • Morally degenerate
  • Lacking in self- control
  • Weak in character
  • Social drop-outs

More people than actually care to admit hold this ‘looking down their nose’ belief system. These are the people who use statements like: “they should just pull themselves together, snap out of it, this is all their own fault because they are not a strong enough person”.

If you are a potential sponsor for someone that you love who is involved in an addiction, and if this is your personal stand point on addicts and of how addicts should be addressed, we would invite you to maybe consider looking for another facility. Bethesda Addictions Treatment Centre does not agree with the Morally Degenerate approach; it gets very little support from contemporary Addiction Specialists and/or up to date addiction/recovery literature and we believe it to be a completely inappropriate approach in the post-Apartheid South African context where the whole nation is fighting its way to ensure that social inequality is replaced by a maturing cultural attitude of many cultures under one flag.

The Disease Model

This model, also known as The Medical Model has grown into the world’s most popular approach and seeks to address the root cause and suggests its own form of treatment of addictions in the form of the internationally recognised 12 Step Programme. Once again, we at Bethesda are not yet fully sold on this idea either due to what we consider to be inconclusive evidence that addiction is a disease in a medical sense of the word. The Disease Model was originally developed with and through Alcoholics Anonymous, as an alternative to the blaming philosophy of the previously mentioned moral criticism which lay at the root of the failed prohibition regime. Proponents of the Disease Model advocate hypothesize of an underlying disease within the addict which manifests itself through physical dependency, genetic predisposition and the assumption that this ‘disease’ is progressive and eternal – those who have it, always had it and will always keep it.

It is our considered opinion that there is too much closed mindedness from too many addiction treatment clinics around this particular model, in that while it as only ever been a Disease Theory, many clinics emphatically conclude that it is a disease.

Bethesda Addictions Treatment Centre has been supporting and will continue to support and supplement proponents of the Disease Model and this has been our policy since our launch in 2005. We are in several successfully collaborative relationships with clinics around the world who concentrate their therapeutic approach on this model, and a majority of our therapeutic approach revolves around our clients going into The Twelve Steps as a means of examining their condition and establishing an alternatrive life style. However, we do not rest with the ‘conclusion’ that addiction is a disease.

We feel that this is too much of a stigmatic label which may have played a major part in the hidden reasons of why many people relapse – it eats away at self-esteem, erodes motivation and questions family genetic integrity.

Weighed against the historical definition of that which constituted a disease, addicts and families alike could be forgiven for feeling as if their belief systems are being manipulated to believe something other than which they have always understood and it creates the question ‘So what is a Disease’?

Today, due to scientific ‘progress’ we find ourselves in an age of ‘the third generation disease’.

First Generation Disease consists of disorders known through heir physical manifestations such as Malaria, Tuberculosis, Cancer, Hepatitis and HIV Aids. We confidently accept that these conditions to be ‘diseases’ and we can all stand eternally grateful for the scientists who gave the world its medical growth and understanding. It was through their discoveries of specific microbes which caused these specific diseases that they went on to produce relevant preventative inoculations. With First Generation Diseases, issued remain unclouded.

Second Generation Diseases were and are made up of what became known as ‘Mental Illnesses’, which we now call ‘emotional disorders’. They are not defined in the same way that first generation diseases are defined, and we do not diagnose a mental disorders from brain scans – what we do is, if a person cannot tell reality from fantasy we call them mentally ill. It could be said that there has been a drifting away from what everyone believed accurate and felt safe with, into a clinical grey area where boundaries started to become blurred.

Third Generation Diseases those which now include ‘addictions’ have drifted further way from the base camp of which was originally called a disease. Advances in areas such as Bacteriology seem to have led some to think that similar advances could be made in areas of addiction and the increasing mental health problems and we can only wonder what the next 100 years might bring.

The way things are, the ever changing face of medicine and treatments of new diseases increasingly determine our feelings, our self-conceptions and our world views. Our emotional and behavioural diseases define our culture and who we are.

Let’s keep this in mind; people regularly stop smoking every day, they cut back on drinking, lose weight, improve their health and create healthy loving relationships within which they then produce healthy and strong children. Psychologist & Physician Henry Murray once said ‘we are constantly trying to reduce the concept of human nature to its lowest common denominators and then gloating over the success of doing so’.