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The Disease Model of Addiction

The Disease Model of Addiction

Throughout history, researchers and non-researchers alike have studied addiction and why some people develop addictions while others don’t.

As research and science progressed, models like the disease model of addiction were developed to better understand the changes in brain structure associated with substance abuse disorders. As a drug rehab center in Philadelphia, we want to explain the disease model of addiction.

What Is the Disease Model of Addiction?

The disease model of addiction applies to both drug and alcohol abuse and classifies addiction as a chemical or biological issue that is progressive and life-threatening if left untreated.

There are three main points that the disease model of addiction supports:

  • Addiction is either present or it isn’t
  • People with addictions cannot control their drug or alcohol use
  • Addiction cannot be cured, but it can be treated

The model considers addiction as a disease because it’s an abnormal condition that causes distress or discomfort. It also claims that a person’s addiction can be affected or influenced by their environment. The model refers to substance abuse disorders as diseases that require specific forms of addiction treatment. This model has been one of the many milestones in creating rehab programs and rehabilitation centers for individuals struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism.

Banyan Treatment Centers Philadelphia is one of the most equipped and efficient substance abuse treatment centers in Philadelphia. We offer several levels of care that address multiple substance abuse disorders. Whether it’s an addiction to drugs or alcohol, we offer the care and tools patients need to make a successful recovery.

Pros of the Disease Model of Addiction Theory

As with many things, there are pros and cons to the brain disease model of addiction.


  • Addiction is viewed by its health effects rather than its legal or financial effects
  • Offers education on addiction to help patients understand their behavior
  • Supports the method of abstinence, which works for many people
  • Helps to mitigate the guilt and shame often caused by addiction


  • Methods may remove the need for accountability from the patient
  • Only offers abstinence as a form of addiction treatment, which isn’t suitable for everyone

While it does have a couple of cons, there’s no denying the pros that the disease model of addiction has to offer. By viewing addiction as a disease, it removes the guilt and shame that many struggling addicts feel. It helps to break down stereotypes about addiction, like a person can quit with enough willpower or that the person is being selfish. While many individuals may take advantage of the disease category and use it as an excuse for continuous relapses and poor choices, most if not all forms of addiction treatment highlight the importance of accountability and taking responsibility for your actions to achieve long-lasting sobriety.

At Banyan Philadelphia, we understand the disease model of addiction treatment and support individuals who struggle with addiction in any way we can. With the help of our unique programs and therapies, we ensure that our patients identify the source of their addiction and any negative behaviors that support it. At our facility, patients can learn to take responsibility for their behavior as well as how to cope with addiction cravings in healthy ways.

If you or a loved one has a drug or alcohol problem, we’re here to help. Call us now at 888-280-4763 for more information about our PHP.

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.