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The philosophical view on addiction is something that has changed over the years, and it is still contested today. In the past, most people’s philosophical view on addiction was that addiction was a matter of willpower and addicts were simply weak-willed. Some have said that addiction was a manifestation of evil, and that the cure for addiction was similar to the cure for demonic possession. These days, most experts believe that it is a disease, but it is a physical disease or a mental one? Is there a spiritual aspect? Is it caused by genetics or environment? Is rehab an adequate treatment for addiction or is a 12-step program the only way? These questions are still heavily debated.

The Philosophical View on Addiction: History of Treatment

The treatment of addiction depends largely on the philosophical view on addiction, so models have changed over the years. In the 1800’s, the first sober homes and “asylums for the inebriated” were created. Sober houses have survived, but we no longer equate addiction with insanity.

In the 1900’s, the philosophical view on addiction changed somewhat, and “replacement” therapy began. Many alcoholics were prescribed cocaine or morphine to break them of their addiction to alcohol. We know today that simply switching from one addictive substance to another does not cure addiction, but there are still plenty of addicts who are on methadone or suboxone maintenance therapy. While these replacement meds definitely do not “cure” addiction, they do reduce drug-related crime and the spread of disease in places that have high rates of addiction.

In 1939, the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, was published. Since that time, AA’s philosophical view on addiction has changed very little. The program of Alcoholics Anonymous believes that addiction is a three part illness: a physical allergy, a mental obsession, and a spiritual malady. Their treatment of addiction is and always was the 12-steps that are the foundation of the program. And while there are no accurate statistics on the success of AA, we have yet to create anything that works better.

The Philosophical View on Addiction: Treatment Centers

Today, there is a wide-range of treatment options for the recovering addict or alcoholic. Many have their own philosophical view on addiction which determines the type of treatment they offer. Some are faith-based, which are usually highly structured and disciplined and rely on spirituality and religion more than traditional, psychological approaches to treating addiction.

Narconon, one of the most infamous faith-based treatment franchises, is based on the philosophy of Scientology, and uses high heat saunas and vitamin regimens to “cure” addiction. The saunas and vitamins are intended detox the body. According to L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, small amounts of drugs and their metabolites are stored in the body’s fat cells, and this is what causes drug craving.

Other centers’ philosophical view on addiction can be 12-step based, holistic, strongly reliant on psychological therapy, involve “replacement” drugs, or any combination of these. Though few centers claim they can “cure” addiction these days, there are some notable exceptions, like Passages in Malibu. They claim that their process, a non-12-step based approach, can effectively end any type of addiction or addictive behavior.

There is no evidence that any type of treatment protocol can “cure” addiction, but it’s true that some approaches work better than others. Generally, a combination of behavioral therapy, medication, and a support system after treatment seems to produce the best outcomes.

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