The Moral Model Versus the Neurobiological Model

//The Moral Model Versus the Neurobiological Model

After thousands of years of individuals experiencing addiction, its etiology is still unknown. There are many models, which attempt to explain the process of addiction and aid in the formulation of treatment modalities and prevention programs. The Moral model suggests individuals become addicted to substances because they choose to be. It opposes the idea biological, genetic, and medical factors contribute to addiction. Contrary to the Moral model, the Neurobiological model suggests altered brain chemistries resulting from substance use explain addiction. This model suggests addiction is reversible with the combination of psychosocial treatments, and possibly medications (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2008). This paper will compare and contrast two theories of the etiology of addiction: the Moral model and the Neurobiological model. It will also discuss how the possibility of a physiological basis supports or refutes these models.

The Moral model is an interesting explanation of addiction, because although unaccepted by most scholars today, it continues to be a driving force in our criminal justice system and public policy. With high costs for substance abuse treatment, it appears the Moral model can be a convenient reason to withhold insurance coverage, and simply incarcerate drug users. The Moral model suggests people use drugs and alcohol because of the inherent sinful nature of human beings (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2008). This theory proclaims individuals have the ability to abstain from drugs if they choose, and that moral weakness is a contributing factor in their use of psychoactive substances. The Moral model sees no biological or psychodynamic basis for addiction. On the other hand, the Neurobiological model of addiction suggests individuals may become addicted to psychoactive substances because of altered brain chemistries. Recent technological advances in nuclear medicine have enabled researchers to objectively confirm the effects of drugs in the brain. The Neurobiological model concludes psychoactive substances reach the reward / reinforcement center of the brain, and the brain tells the individual to keep using the drug again and again (Inaba & Cohen, 2004). Neurotransmitters such as dopamine, epinephrine, endorphins, and Norepinephrine are so negatively altered that discontinuing the use of a substance can seem impossible without appropriate interference methods. For example, when an individual begins using methamphetamines the brain is flooded with dopamine. Over time, the brain becomes depleted of dopamine and adapts to these new low levels. It can take several years for the brain to return to normal. In the mean time, addicts may experience depression, anhedonia, and lethargy. These unresolved symptoms are often enough to trigger relapse.

The Neurobiological model suggests brain chemistry can be returned to normal with medications and counseling. The Moral model and the Neurobiological model are contradictory to one another in most areas. The Moral model suggests individuals simply have to choose to stop using substances, whereas the Neurobiological model suggests the brain is reprogrammed and tells the individual to keep using. The Moral model denies biological and genetic factors play a role in addiction, and the Neurobiological model suggests there can be genetic predisposition and obvious biological influence on the addictive process. A similarity between the two models is the ability to treat addiction effectively. The Moral model provides little insight into the concept of addiction, therefore is limited in use when formulating treatment modalities. After all, the model recommends people can just stop if they want to. On the other hand, the Neurobiological model also sees an addiction as reversible, but realizes the significance of talk therapy to change cognitive processes, as well as possible use of pharmacological interventions to help repair damaged brain chemistry.

In conclusion, the Moral model and the Neurobiological model are very different theories on the etiology of addiction. It will be advantageous, as new chemical dependency counselors, to learn a broad range of models, as our clients will be extremely diverse. A combination of approaches, based on a variety of etiologies may be necessary to ensure treatment is specific to the client. The Moral model may have some value in its emphasis on choice, whereas the Neurobiological model gives us a true understanding of the complex nature of the drug's influence on the brain. Fortunately, both models conclude addiction can be effectuated.

Source by Katy Marie Vander Kamp