Is drug addiction only a physical disease?

Is drug addiction simply a matter of chemical dependence? Rabbi Shais Taub helps us take a closer look at the biological model of drug addiction and understand why chemical dependency alone does not qualify as the way to define drug addiction.

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The biological model of drug addiction

Ask the average man or woman to define addiction and they will tell you in so many words that it is a chemical dependence. A person becomes used to relying on a substance, and their bodies crave more and more of the same until they’re hooked.

That is actually a nice nonprofessionals description of the physical phenomena of chemical tolerance and withdrawal. It has little, however, to do with addiction.

Chemical dependency + detox = cure?

If addiction were chemical dependency, then the solution for addiction would be detox. Once you can get through the drying-out period, you’re home free. However, if this were the case, rehabs wouldn’t have so much return business, and drunk tanks would sober-up people for life.

No, if that were what addiction really was (a mere dependency of the body) then addicts wouldn’t baffle their friends and families by getting clean, starting to put their lives back in order, then tragically inexplicably relapsing for no apparent reason at all. No, if addiction were synonymous with physical dependence on a substance, we still wouldn’t understand why the addict, even after long periods of chemical sobriety, is drawn like a moth to the flame, to be burned again. Furthermore, if addiction were really just chemical dependence, why are some people addicted to sex, gambling, and other processes that have nothing to do with introducing a foreign chemical into the body’s system at all?

Chemical dependence is a physical problem, and it has a physical solution. Medical doctors can cure a patient of a chemical dependence. Heck, the deputy at the county jail can, too. If your body is dependent on a chemical, then hold tight, and get ready to feel real sick for a while until your system regains its natural equilibrium.

But addiction doesn’t work like that. Addiction stays with a person indeed, it works even harder even when the body is no longer physically dependent on his or her drug of choice.

Addiction solutions

Are you interested in exploring more about the nature, cause and solution for addiction?  Check out Rabbi Taub’s new book God of Our Understanding, on sale at Amazon now.

About the author
Rabbi Shais Taub is one of today's most respected young scholars of Jewish spirituality and practice. National Public Radio called him "an expert in Jewish mysticism and the Twelve Steps." He is the author of God of Our Understanding: Jewish Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction.
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