In a recent article in the Huffington Post director of the Columbia University Medical Centre Substance Treatment and Research Service in New York City, U.S. writes about the root of addiction: is there one central cause for addiction behaviour, he asks. Or, perhaps a better question is: how much are we to conceive of addiction as a failure of willpower or instead as something that might be based, at least partly, on genetics? The understanding of these questions, and their potential answers, can transform the way we view addiction and addiction treatment.
How Genetics Changes our Understanding of Addiction
As the author argues, if there is no room for biology in the discussion of addiction causes, then support for punitive reactions to addiction, or the criminalisation of addiction, may continue. Rather than view addiction as a failure of morals, including genetics in the makeup of addiction allows for management solutions: addiction treatment and drug rehab centres. Addiction is not a personality failure, but a disease like any other that can be managed.
Genetics Is Not A Crutch
Of course, even when scientists recognise the biological-basis of addiction, this is not a call to excuse personal responsibility; those recovering from addiction must work hard to overcome a biological disposition. Drug rehab centres exist to outfit addicts with the toolsets necessary to lead healthy, sober lives and to promote recovery and the management of addiction.
Aim for a Holistic Understanding of Addiction
By including genetics in the addiction makeup, it eases the tendency to want to punish addiction. Yet, addiction is not determined solely by genetics, but also by a range of social and developmental factors. Only by working with each individual addict can an addiction treatment counsellor begin to equip recovering drug and alcohol abusers with an understanding of themselves (and why they abuse), helping them towards the calm of acceptance of sobriety.
An understanding of addiction promotes more comprehensive addiction treatments and drug rehab centres more widely prepared to help abusers reach recovery and maintain a recovery lifestyle. It is not just about finding the answers to the question of what causes addiction. It is about using these answers to better inform addiction treatment.