For much of the 20th century, theories of addictive behavior and motivation were divided between two models. The first model viewed addiction as a moral failing, for which addicts were held accountable and judged accordingly. The second model, however, saw addiction as a brain disease caused by neurobiological adaptations that occur in response to chronic drug or alcohol use, and over which addicts have no control. As our understanding of neurobiological phenomena improved, the second model became the scientific orthodoxy, increasingly dominating addiction research and informing the public about addiction.
But recent research has gone beyond this polarization between competing models of moral addiction and disease. Satel and Lilienfeld (in “Addiction and the Brain-Disease Falacy”) directly challenge the disease model, drawing on historical and clinical data to argue that addicts respond to incentives and use drugs for reasons, so addictive behavior should be understood as an option. This suggests that addiction is not simply a matter of moral failing or a brain disease, but rather a complex phenomenon that requires a more nuanced approach. The moral model of addiction emphasizes personal responsibility and accountability for one's actions. It suggests that addicts should be held accountable for their behavior and judged accordingly.
This model also implies that addicts can overcome their addiction through willpower and self-control. The disease model of addiction, on the other hand, views addiction as a chronic brain disorder caused by neurobiological adaptations that occur in response to chronic drug or alcohol use. This model suggests that addicts have no control over their behavior and should be treated with compassion rather than judgment. It also implies that addiction can only be treated through medical intervention and lifestyle changes. Ultimately, both models have their merits and drawbacks.
The moral model emphasizes personal responsibility and accountability, while the disease model emphasizes compassion and understanding. Neither model is perfect, but both can be useful in understanding addiction and helping those who suffer from it.""