Comparison of Theories of Addiction: The Biological Model and the Genetic Model


Addiction is one of the most difficult phenomena to investigate: first, it deals with a number of psychological substances which are not easy to define and comprehend, and second, human dependency is regarded as the main factor of addiction that is hard to control. The researchers find it necessary to use several theories or models in order to explain the etiology of addiction and realize how significant the question of addiction can be for people (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2008).

In this paper, the two models, genetic and biological, will be compared. The peculiar feature of these theories is that they support the medical model and make such groups of people like nurses, physicians, or surgeons responsible for the required treatment of addiction.

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Genetic and biological models aim at disclosing the essence of addiction as something natural and irreversible and the methods which are supported by neurobiology and physiology and become more appropriate for using and controlling human dependence, still, their main difference is that the genetic model deals with the environmental factors which define the role of genetics in addiction.


Ross et al. (2010) admit that addiction is the phenomenon that shows a kind of strong heritability, this is why the role of genetic and biological models is important.

In fact, Capuzzi & Stauffer (2008) combine the two models into one group as both of them are based on the fact that addiction is something natural; it is a kind of dependence that has to be treated thoroughly and constantly during the whole life.

These models are similar as they explain addiction as inheritance, some predisposition that is not always easy to define on the early stages of human development.

People may be addicted to many different things, ideas, or actions at the same time, and society will be unable to identify such dependence.

This is why the chosen models identify an idea of medical treatment and group support during the whole life. It is not enough to identify the problem and pass through some exercises. It becomes more important to think about the constant activities with the help of which a person may achieve the required control and cope with the dependence that has genetic roots.

However, it is also necessary to admit that genetic and biological models have certain differences which make some people believe in the power of one theory only. In spite of the fact that addiction is obscured by biological problems (Campbell, 2003), certain environmental factors have to be defined.

The etiology of addiction has to consider environment as it is an integral part of human life, and some genetic researchers admit that environment should be investigated and even separated from genetics in order to comprehend better addictive behaviour. A person has to live under the conditions set by society, and even if some genetic factors promote addiction, environmental factors may predetermine the development of drug, alcohol, or some other type of addiction.

In comparison to the genetic perspective, the biological model defines addiction as something constant. According to the biological theorists, a person may be either addicted to something or not.

It is impossible to stop being addicted to something. In other words, the genetic model does provide people with a kind of hope that addiction may be controlled due to the investigation of the particular factors, and the biological model does not provide such a chance.

Talking about the factors which may predetermine the comprehension of addiction, it is also necessary to underline some neurobiological and physiological factors. For example, neurotransmitters become important messengers in a human brain (Schepis, Adinoff, & Rao, 2008) which promote the idea of addiction. Almost the same happens to physiological perspective of addiction: the main purpose of physiology as a science is to comprehend the mechanism of a human body.

This is why physiology of addiction supports the biological model due to its functions and abilities to investigate the chosen phenomenon as a complex mechanism that has to work accordingly. In its turn, the genetic model is supported by neurobiology as the changes and control are observed in the human brain.

In spite of the fact that some people still believe that it is difficult to discover the ways of how natural addiction may be controlled by a human, some genetic theorist continue making the attempts and identifying the methods with the help of which addiction becomes less harmful for a person.


In general, the two theories under consideration play an important role in explaining the etiology of addiction. The biological model shows that a human organism may be addicted to something during the whole life, and it is impossible to stop being addicted one day.

The genetic model has almost the same characteristics; still, it also shows that the evaluation of some environmental factors may be an integral step.

The similarities and differences of the chosen models prove that the etiology of addiction is a complex issue to deal with, this is why it is necessary to pay more attention to some other models and factors like neurobiology or physiology and gain better understanding of the matter.

Reference List

Campbell, W. (2003). Addiction: A Disease of Volition Caused by a Cognitive Impairment. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 48(10), 669-674. ISSN: 07067437.

Capuzzi, D. & Stauffer, M.D. (2008). Foundations of Addictions Counseling. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.

Ross, D., Kincaid, H., Spurrett, D., Collins, P. (Ed). (2010). What Is Addiction? Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Schepis, T.S., Adinoff, B. Rao, U. (2008). Neurobiological Processes in Adolescent Addictive Disorders. American Journal on Addictions, 17(1), 6-23. Doi: 10.1080/10550490701756146.


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