The process of recovering from the ravages of substance abuse can be fraught with many formidable challenges. These challenges not only are seen in the physical and emotional aspects of recovery, but it is also seen in regards to the philosophy of recovery in of itself. A controversial claim that has been made by some in the recovery community is the assertion that one can be cured from addiction. This point of view goes against the grain from the traditional school of thought which asserts that addiction is a chronic and long-term “disease” which has no cure, but can be treated via drug treatment and attendance at twelve-step groups among other treatment options.
The Case for Curing Addiction
For those in the recovery community who believe that you can cure addiction, they point to the biopsychosocial model of addiction as a framework that can be used to break the cycle of addiction and thus curing those who suffer in its’ grasp. In the framework of this model the following domains are considered:
Biological—refers to the genetic predisposition to develop addiction and also the effects of addiction on the body.
Psychological—related to behaviors, thoughts and feelings in relation to addiction. Many psychological theories have provided a lens to examine addiction, including personality theory, classical conditioning theory, social learning theory, learning theory and, of course, psychoanalysis.
Social–these factors including the influences of family, friends and other relationships. Addiction usually has a negative effect on the addicts’ relationships and it effects how the addict relates to people around them
For those in the recovery community who utilize this model of addiction, it is believed that a multidisciplinary approach to the study of addiction should lead to the development of a more accurate picture of the roots causes of addiction and through the development of treatments specific to these roots, addiction could have the possibility of being cured.
The Case for How Addiction Can’t Be Cured
For others in the recovery community, the question of can you cure addiction is simply not applicable. Each individual has a unique history in regards to their own substance use and abuse and a “one size fits all” approach will not work. There are three main reasons to why this may be the case:
- Programmed for pleasure—the quest for pleasure is fundamentally human and we as humans are inventing ways we can get high. Drugs provide instant gratification through the release of dopamine and that process conditions us to seek out the next high.
- Pain—just as human are hardwired to seek out pleasure, humans are also hardwired to avoid painful experiences. People often turn to drugs to escape the pain, sadness and depression that may be present in their daily lives.
- Drug Use isn’t Just About Drugs–Addiction is an illness that has a strong behavioral component. Those who are susceptible to addiction experience drugs and alcohol in a very different way than average people. Addicts seek the high more, but they enjoy it less. Furthermore, the cravings, rituals, and other behaviors associated with drug use continue even after a person stops using.
Can You Actually Cure Addiction?
While there may be some cases of people who have stopped their substance abuse cold without any long-lasting repercussions, it is a dangerous assertion to make. Our society is inclined to pursue the quick fix when the facts are that addiction has no easy solution. Instead of asking the question of “can you cure addiction?” the question in reality should be “what can be done to make treatment better?” Finding ways to complement and enrich the current treatment structure on a continual basis is key in improving outcomes.