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Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a complicated issue, potentially impacting on all areas of one's life, from work, cognitive, emotional and physical health, spirituality and interpersonal relationships. Hopefully, at some point, a person struggling with drug or alcohol addiction will reach out for help. Thankfully, there are many settings and levels of addiction treatment available to provide recovery assistance, medical detoxification, residential rehabilitation and out-patient treatment programmes.


Addiction as defined by the


​1. the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically 
habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

When a substance user can't stop drinking and/or taking other drugs even if they want to, this constitutes an addiction. Eventually the urge to use becomes too strong to control, even when you know the substance is causing harm. Often people who start drinking alcohol and or taking drugs, don't plan on getting addicted. They like how alcohol or the drug makes them feel. Most people initially believe they can control how much and how often they take their substance of choice. However, alcohol and drugs change the brain, alcohol and drug tolerance increases and drug users start to need their drug just to feel normal. This is addiction, and it can quickly take over a person's life.


Addiction can become more important than the need to eat or sleep. The urge to get and use alcohol and/or drugs can fill every moment of a person's life. The addiction replaces all the things the person
used to enjoy. A person who is addicted might do almost anything - lying, stealing, or hurting people, to keep drinking and taking the drugs. This can lead to criminal activities and eventually criminal charges and possible imprisonment.


Is Addiction a Disease?

There are two factors to consider when discussing addiction theory development, the disease and biological concepts.  The disease model of addiction compares the differences between people with the disease, and those without the disease. In contrast, the biological model talks about the genetic risk for developing the disease of addiction. Research clearly highlights how the disease concept and the biological concepts are inter-related (Horvath, Ph.D.,Misra, Ph.D., Epner, Ph.D.,Morgan Cooper, Ph.D.).


According to the disease model, addiction is a brain disease (Horvath, Ph.D.,Misra, Ph.D., Epner, Ph.D.,Morgan Cooper, Ph.D.). It is characterised by altered brain structure and functioning. These brain abnormalities cause persons with this disease to become addicted to substances or activities, once exposure to these substances or activities occurs. 


So if addiction is a disease, just as diabetes or cancer are diseases then the conclusion can be made that addiction is not simply a weakness. People from all backgrounds, rich or poor, can develop an addiction. Addiction can happen at any age, but commonly it usually starts when a person is young.

The Many Causes of Addiction: The ‘Bio-Psych-Social-Spiritual (BPSS) Model’ of Addiction

Many things influence the development of an addiction. Here at Clinic 77, we very much believe in holistic health and well-being. We believe that holistic health and well-being is actually an approach to life. This approach considers the whole person and emphasises the connection of mind, body, and spirit. Importantly holistic health and well-being looks at how a person interacts with their environment. Clinic 77 believes that the ‘Bio-Psych-Social-Spiritual (BPSS) Model’ of addiction embraces holistic well-being as it recognises these different aspects of addiction as being inter-related. (e.g., Engel, Von Bertalanffy, Keye & Trunnell, White, Pederson & Keye)


In brief the ‘Bio-Psych-Social-Spiritual (BPSS) Model’ of addiction discusses the biological forces, such as a person's genetics. Second the model highlights the psychological forces, referring to thoughts, feelings and other cognitive characteristics that affect the attitude, behaviour and functions of the human mind. In relation to the social aspects of this model, the research reviews environmental influences and people’s life experiences, e.g. early developmental experiences, interpersonal relationships and culture. Finally, the meaning and the role of spirituality in a person's life. How a person finds value, purpose and significance individually as well as in their community.


Important: Engel, George L. (1977). 'The need for a new medical model: A challenge for biomedicine'. Science 196:129–136. ISSN 0036-8075 (print) / ISSN 1095-9203 (web). In 1977, George Engel was the first to argue that medicine in general and psychiatry in particular ought to shift from a bio-medical perspective of disease to a bio-psycho-social (BPS) perspective on health. He argued that the bio-medical perspective was too reductionistic and that a holistic perspective grounded in general systems theory was necessary to address health related issues. 

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