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Disease Model of Addiction

Western society’s understanding of addiction and those who are addicted has changed significantly since the early 19th century. How addiction is characterized influences the way in which society responds to drug use and drug users. Central to this debate is the question of whether individuals with an addiction can control their drug use. Addiction is often characterized by two competing models: (1) liberal models in which individuals freely choose to engage in drug use and are held morally responsible for harms arising from their drug use and (2) medical or disease models of addiction whereby an individual’s control over his or her drug use is impaired. Disease models of addiction focus on medical or therapeutic interventions to address this impairment.

The modern disease model of addiction ...

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