Insights from an Alternative Theory About Alcoholism and Addiction

Is alcoholism a disease? Is drug addiction genetic? Since the American Medical Association declared drug and alcohol addiction to be a disease in 1956, modern medicine and psychology have largely treated addiction based on that assumption, according to the Foundation for Alcoholism Research. Even Alcoholics Anonymous, the famed 12-step program which many alcoholics credit for their recovery, is based on the alcoholism disease theory.

However, even after all these years, opinions on this issue within the medical community itself remain divided as to whether they should be treating drug/alcohol addictions as diseases. And today, an alternative theory is causing some in the mental health field to reconsider their entire approach to addiction treatment.

One of the theory’s main proponents, Dr. Lance M. Dodes, M.D., suggests that addictive behavior may be triggered by one or more deeper psychological factors having nothing to do with disease or genetics. For example, he suggests:

  • An addict may turn to his object of addiction to “treat” or lessen feelings or emotions that may be overwhelming (such as sorrow or shame)
  • An addict may be trying to replace a sense of loss
  • An addict may find her own feelings of self-criticism or worthlessness lessened when participating in addictive behaviors
  • When feeling out of control in a certain area of life, an addict may drink, gamble or take drugs to regain a sense of power

Based on Dodes’ theory, the key to effective treatment is to help the alcoholic or addict identify those deeper issues that trigger addictive behavior and deal with them more directly. This approach enables the person to anticipate the onset of addictive behavior before it happens and to learn more constructive solutions to dealing with those issues.

The Ramifications of This Theory

If Dodes’ alternate view has any merit—and we believe it has—the ramifications for alcoholics and addicts may be far reaching. For instance, if someone has been arrested one or more times for DUI due to a dependency to alcohol, there may be other underlying reasons for it than just a relapse of his disease. Identifying those reasons and relearning new responses could potentially prevent recurring incidents of DUI.

The bottom line: If you’re facing charges for DUI, even for the second, third or fourth time, it is not necessarily an indicator that you’re doomed to repeat the pattern. If you need legal assistance in dealing with the present moment, however, we are here to help. Call Chehimi Law today at 678-459-5659.

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