Disease Model

The disease model is the view or theory that alcoholism or another narcotic addiction is an incurable disease rather than a mental or social problem. As a key concept in the field of addiction treatment and recovery. It is an approach that views addiction as a chronic illness, similar to other medical conditions. By understanding addiction as a disease, individuals can be better equipped to address and manage their substance use disorders.

The disease model of addiction presents the concept that addiction, including alcoholism and drug dependency, is a chronic and relapsing brain disease, not merely a social or mental issue. This perspective equates addiction with other chronic illnesses, emphasising that it results from a complex interplay of genetic, neurobiological and environmental factors. Understanding addiction within this framework enables individuals to better manage and treat their substance use disorders, advocating for a more empathetic approach to recovery that integrates both medical and behavioural interventions tailored to each person’s unique circumstances.

Central to the disease model is the idea that addictive substances fundamentally alter brain function, particularly in areas critical for decision-making, behaviour regulation and the experience of reward. These changes undermine an individual’s ability to control substance use, leading to the compulsive drug-seeking behaviour that characterises addiction. The model identifies three stages of addiction—binge/intoxication, withdrawal/negative affect and preoccupation/anticipation—each linked to specific brain regions and contributing to the cyclical nature of substance abuse.

The inception of the disease model dates back to the establishment of Alcoholics Anonymous in the early 20th century but was formally introduced by the National Institute of Drug Abuse in 1997. This approach sought to diminish the moral stigma around addiction, promoting a view of drug dependency as a condition necessitating medical intervention and compassionate support rather than punishment.

Despite its widespread acceptance and the benefits it brings in terms of reducing stigma and promoting recovery, the disease model has faced criticism for potentially overlooking the social and cultural dimensions of addiction. Critics argue that focusing solely on the biological underpinnings may neglect the importance of social factors and personal agency in the development and maintenance of addiction.

At the core of addiction’s impact on the brain lies the mesolimbic reward system, important for motivating life-sustaining behaviors. Addictive substances hijack this system, producing excessive dopamine release and creating strong, habit-forming connections that make abstaining from drug use increasingly challenging. This neurobiological perspective underlines the disease model’s assertion that addiction is more than a failure of willpower; it is a debilitating condition that alters the brain’s structure and function.

Acknowledging addiction as a disease enphasises the necessity for a treatment approach that combines medical, psychological and social support strategies. This holistic view acknowledges the complexity of addiction and the importance of personalised care in achieving long-term recovery. Recognising addiction as a treatable disease encourages a more humane and effective response to substance use disorders, emphasising the need for compassion, understanding and comprehensive care strategies.

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    Founded in 2008, WeDoRecover has evolved from an advisory service for addiction treatment into a comprehensive provider of care, following its 2019 merger with Changes Addiction Rehab in Johannesburg. Specialising in connecting patients to top-tier addiction treatment centers in the UK, South Africa and Thailand, WeDoRecover supports individuals globally, including those from the United Arab Emirates and Europe. Accepting both South African medical aid and international health insurance our organisation facilitates access to high-quality treatment for substance and alcohol use disorders, offering individualised care that addresses the physical, mental and social needs of patients.

    Our team, led by Gareth Carter, offers empathetic and professional support, guiding you through every step of the treatment process. Whether you're in South Africa or abroad, our acceptance of various insurance plans makes quality care accessible, providing a platform for lasting recovery and a healthier future.

    Inpatient Rehab

    Rehab care is a good option if you are at risk of experiencing strong withdrawal symptoms when you try stop a substance. This option would also be recommended if you have experienced recurrent relapses or if you have tried a less-intensive treatment without success.


    If you're committed to your sobriety but cannot take a break from your daily duties for an inpatient program. Outpatient rehab treatment might suit you well if you are looking for a less restricted format for addiction treatment or simply need help with mental health.


    Therapy can be good step towards healing and self-discovery. If you need support without disrupting your routine, therapy offers a flexible solution for anyone wishing to enhance their mental well-being or work through personal issues in a supportive, confidential environment.

    Mental Health

    Are you having persistent feelings of being swamped, sad or have sudden surges of anger or intense emotional outbursts? These are warning signs of unresolved trauma mental health. A simple assesment by a mental health expert could provide valuable insights into your recovery.

    Finding the right rehab close to you is simple with WeDoRecover. Our network includes the finest rehab centers, ensuring personalised, quality care for your recovery needs. Let Gareth Carter and our empathetic team help guide you to a center that feels right for you, offering expert care and support. Start your healing today by choosing a rehab that's not just close to you, but also that truly cares about your loved ones recovery.

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