Understanding Addiction – Addiction is NOT a disease!

For many years (even decades) the common stigma and actually the myth attached to addiction is that it is a disease. At the Noupoort Christian Care Centre we have always known and taught that addiction is not a disease and unlike the 12 step program we do not remain addicts for the rest of our lives (the 12 Step program states that I can stay sober indefinitely, but never be cured of the addiction of disease).

Recent studies by neuroscientists and especially Mark Lewis are now saying that the belief of addiction being a disease is not correct and that addiction is merely an extremely powerful habit that has engrained neuropathways into the brain that dictate how we as human beings react to different situations.

The idea is that the brain changes with addiction but the way that it changes has to do with learning and development and not disease. The changes brought upon by addiction are permanent but abnormal. Even though someone has been through a very emotional history, bad luck, trauma or bad choices transforms the brain into an addict brain, but the mystery and amazing quality of the brain is that through constant and repetitive corrective behavior can move toward healthy emotional development (inspite of the fact that a person is an addict).

Lewis states that even though the use of a particular substance helps someone handle an emotional wound, once they start using it then the habit actually ends up deepening the wound. The brain is built to learn and change but is also built to form pathways for repetitive behavior. The brain is also self organizing. But all these good qualities get hijacked by the addiction and use them for a bad cause.

The repeated sensation of having ones worries wafted away by a substance changes and defines future experiences. More and more of these similar experiences and activities will get looped into the addictive experience and trigger and ultimate drive us towards cravings and expectations based on past experiences.

The addicts world becomes a combination of signs pointing the person in one direction. This behavior becomes compulsive, and seemingly irresistible. Very often the drug is not even wanted anymore, but the addict brain does not know what else to do than to seek out the drug and take it.

As we can see this differs very differently from the 12 step idea that it is a disease that can never be cured. In actual fact through corrective measures and repetitive change in behavior and the creation of new neural pathways, a person can overcome addiction and create new experiences that will ultimately become normal response to situations and replace the old addictive responses.

Taking this new thinking into account it definitely backs up the notion that long term treatment is vital in an addict’s recovery and will be more effective than the standard 6 week 12 step programs. The longer the program, the greater the chance of creating new neuropathways and the greater the chance of a person living addiction free.

All this brings us back to what the Bible had been telling us all along.  Rom 12v2 states “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Another perfect example why our program is based on the Bible and our one step program is Jesus Christ and Him only.


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