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There are several approaches to the understanding of the addicted behaviors in medicine. For example, the disease model and the harm reduction model provide the opposite perspectives on the problem and its treatment. Overall, the addiction is characterized by low self-esteem, engagement in the illegal activities, depression, indulgence in substances use, and disintegration of the social and familial relationships. The harm reduction model implies the ability of the addicted patient to control and govern the undesired personal behavior while the disease model excludes the self-control aspect from the treatment methods and offers to consider addiction the chronic brain disease. Despite the significant differences in approaches, both models continue to be evolved and are effectively applied in the treatment of the patients with addiction.
Principle Aspects of the Disease Model
Nowadays, the majority of medical specialists prefer to see addiction as pathology. According to the disease model, the addicted person’s behavior isn’t self-manageable, and the main methods of treatment include medical agents. The clinicians who support the model recognize the possibility that the disease model can provide stimuli for addicted persons to seek treatment and behavior change (Wallace, 1990, p. 502). Since some patients tend to believe that the damage to the brain, as the cause of addiction, cannot be cured by psychological methods of treatment, and, therefore, the inclusion of pharmacological methods induces more positive outcomes by stimulating the urge for change, self-understanding, and guilt relieve.
When the patients regard their addiction as a kind of disorder, they accept the problem more willingly, and the acceptance lays the foundation for the positive impacts of treatment procedures. However, the negative impacts of disease model include the lack of responsibility, the adopted helplessness, “common and chronic medical conditions (i.e., hypertension, asthma, and diabetes)” (US Dept of Health and Human Services, 2003, p. 57). The patients start to believe that they cannot control their life circumstances and consequently ignore the opportunity to improve their situation.
Review of the Harm Reduction Model
The harm reduction approach is grounded in the addicted patient’s ability to express their autonomy in the treatment processes (Principles of harm reduction, n.d.). The model emphasizes the notions of the addicted behavior self-governance and the patient’s responsibility. The methods of treatment primarily consist of the psychological techniques, self-assessment, and self-regulation. The problem is regarded in the social and cultural contexts. The comprehension of the distinct aspects and causes of addiction help the patients to accept and then illicit their addiction. The harm reduction model is principally based on the abstinence-based treatment that leads to restoration (Principles of harm reduction, n.d.).
Contrast of The Models: The Potential Negative Impacts
Both of the medical models have their pros and cons regarding the treatment effectiveness and the potential negative impacts on the patients. For example, when the concept of responsibility is completely excluded, the patients can likely be reluctant to take measures needed for restoration and can have a fatalistic perception of the problem (Bell et al., 2013, p. 19). At the same time, when the treatment is merely focused on the responsible approach, the patient can lack motivation and determination when facing some particular difficulties.
The disease and the harm reduction models offer the contradictory views of the addiction. However, the contrast of the models’ methods of treatment makes it clear that both of them have positive and potentially negative impacts on patients. Nowadays, for the increase of the therapy’s positive outcomes, some medical specialists apply the combined models approach when the psychological instruments are reinforced by the usage of medicine and drugs. The understanding of the multiple sides of addictive behavior and its causes, the individual approach to patients, and respect towards the different theoretical perspectives support the efficiency of the medical respond.
Wallace, J. (1990). The new disease model of alcoholism. The Western Journal of Medicine, 152(5), 502-505.
US Dept of Health and Human Services. (2003). A guide to substance abuse services for primary care clinicians. Rockville, MD: Public Health Service.
Harm Reduction Coalition (n.d.). Principles of harm reduction. Web.