There are a few theories out there that attempt to explain the nature of addiction. Experts who study addiction have long been trying to find the common bonds that all types of addiction share, from drug addiction, to sex, alcoholism, and gambling. These models of addiction are useful in the way they look closely at social, environmental, psychological, and genetic factors that play a part in any type of addiction. Because the the true nature of addiction is so complex, we are still not quite able to grasp what causes it. Many believe that it is a combination of the factors described in the models of addiction that gives us the most accurate answer.
The genetic model.
The genetic theory or addictive inheritance, looks at the genetic makeup of an individual when examining their addiction. Some examples that support this model include studies done on children born to alcoholic parents. These children were adopted into families with parents who had no history of alcoholism. The study revealed that these children still had a 3 to 4 times higher chance of developing alcoholism than others. There is a definite predisposition to alcoholism that has been observed in children who are born from and raised by alcoholic parents. The exact gene to blame for this predisposition is still unknown and experts argue about whether these children process alcohol differently than others, or have a greater tendency toward addictive behavior in general.
There is also a correlation between gender and a genetic predisposition to alcohol that supports this model of addiction. Studies have shown that sons inherit the higher risk of alcoholism, not daughters. Could this be due to sons growing up wanting to emulate their fathers, or is there a genetic tie that only affects males? More studies will need to be done to determine the answer.
The biological model.
Also known as the exposure model, this theory states that regular physical exposure to a substance will inevitably create an addiction. This is created by the regular doses of a substance that create metabolic changes in the body that then require higher and higher doses. When these regular doses stop or are decreased, the body goes through withdrawal. This model also supports the theory that some drugs, foods, and alcohol mimic the production of natural endorphins in the body and create an addiction simply because the drugs relieve pain. This is the reason addicts experience cravings and need to maintain regular use of a substance to feel normal.
The conditioning model.
This model suggests that addiction is created as a result of repeated reinforcement of behavior or pleasurable feelings. The reward experienced after using a substance keeps an addiction going and makes it stronger. There are many opposing viewpoints to this model that present valid arguments. This demonstrates once again that addiction is a complex subject that perhaps cannot be explained by a single model or theory.
The adaptation model.
This model includes theories that take psychological, environment, and social factors into consideration. Both internal needs and external forces can cause a person to use drugs to cope. There are also unaddressed psychological issues that have a profound effect on a person’s need to use drugs or other substances. All of these combined factors cause an addict to continue to abuse a substance in order to adapt and survive.