Understanding The Jellinek Curve Of Addiction

The Jellinek Curve outlines the disease model of addiction and how a person can move from a destructive, addicted state to a balanced recovery.

Understanding The Jellinek Curve Of Addiction

The purpose of the Jellinek Curve is to show that alcoholism or drug addiction is a progressive disease that can worsen over time if the proper treatments aren’t received. It also shows how a healthier and more fulfilling recovery from addiction is possible.

Though originally created to detail the stages of alcohol addiction and recovery, the Jellinek Curve has been adapted to represent all other forms of addiction.

By understanding how addiction develops and recovery begins, a person can have a better understanding of the steps they need to take to find treatment, maintain their recovery, and prevent relapse.

About The Jellinek Curve Of Addiction

E. M. Jellinek, the creator of the Jellinek Curve, was one of the earliest pioneers of the disease model of addiction. His research and the creation of the Jellinek Curve helped to change the way addiction and recovery was understood.

While Jellinek outlined the progression of the disease of addiction, Dr. Max M. Glatt revised the curve to include a phase that detailed recovery and rehabilitation.

Because of this, the Jellinek Curve is made up of two, curving halves. The left half curves downward and represents a person’s decline from substance abuse to addiction. The right half curves upward and stands for a person’s rise from addiction to sobriety.

It’s important to understand that the Jellinek Curve shouldn’t be used to diagnose addiction. Instead, as an educational tool that can be used to motivate people towards positive and lasting changes.

Not every person who is struggling with substance abuse or addiction will experience all these changes. It’s critical to remember that even if a person doesn’t show all these signs, they still could have a substance abuse problem that requires help.

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The Crucial Phase Of The Jellinek Curve

Once a person’s drinking accelerates from what Jellinek termed “occasional relief drinking,” their alcohol use will likely begin to cause physical, psychological, and social problems. This can also hold true with other forms of drug abuse.

As drinking or drug use becomes more frequent, a person may become dependent. This means that their body cannot function normally without the substance.

Once this occurs, a person may drink or use drugs on a regular basis to relieve negative feelings, cravings, or withdrawal symptoms. A person may also start drinking or taking drugs shortly after they wake and find they have a hard time stopping once they start.

During the Crucial Phase, an individual’s physical and mental health may begin to suffer at the hand of substance abuse. A person will likely begin to lose increasing amounts of time to finding and using the drug.

People who drink may begin to have more memory blackouts.

Relationships can become strained as a person begins to avoid their loved ones in favor of drinking, taking drugs, or hanging out with people who do.

As substance abuse gains momentum and becomes more compulsive, a person is pushed closer to the Chronic Phase.

The Chronic Phase Of The Jellinek Curve

According to the Jellinek Curve, when a person is chronically drinking or using drugs, levels of abuse have reached compulsive levels.

Here, a person will typically experience a major loss of control over their behaviors. In this state, a person will likely be unable to stop or reduce their use, despite multiple attempts trying to.

Obsessive thoughts, urges, or cravings about substances continue to disrupt a person’s day and overshadow thoughts of most everything else. In this stage, a person has exhausted almost every excuse or alibi to explain their drinking or drug use.

When substance abuse has reached this compulsive level, many people continue to drink or abuse drugs even after it’s started to harm their body, mind, relationships, or job. As they encounter this damage, many people turn back to drugs or alcohol to cope, thus fueling the addiction.

As a person falls deeper into despair and struggles to maintain their life, Jellinek explains that they will likely get trapped in a vicious cycle of obsessive drinking or drug use.

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At this time, many people may experience severe withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit drinking or taking drugs. This could include pain, nausea, and vomiting.

This is often the point many people consider to be rock bottom. If drinking or drug use continues in this way, a person’s health and life could be in real jeopardy.

Fortunately, if a person’s sense of hopelessness pushes them to seek help, opportunities for recovery arise.

The Rehabilitation Phase Of The Jellinek Curve

The rehabilitation stage of the Jellinek Curve begins when a person embraces “an honest desire for help.” At this time, two other critical things happen: a person finds out that alcoholism or drug addiction is an illness, and learn that the harmful patterns of addiction can be stopped.

Equipped with this knowledge, a person then realizes a life without alcohol or drugs is possible and that sobriety holds opportunities for personal fulfillment. Paired with the understanding of the harm they’ve been causing themselves, these realizations motivate a person to quit drinking or taking drugs.

Interacting with people in recovery who have successfully found sobriety and achieved a happier life provides encouragement at this transitional and important time. This is one reason why treatment and peer-support groups are such vital resources to those in recovery.

As a person builds strength and overcomes their fears, hope begins to take shape. In order for a person to heal from addiction, the physical, mental, and spiritual harms must be addressed. Group therapy, medical care, spiritual guidance, and other treatments offered at rehab are beneficial at this time.

Developing positive thoughts and behaviors that support sobriety are a main goal of rehab. Here, a person will learn to recognize harmful rationalizations they once used to support their substance abuse. This will help them avoid relapse triggers and develop healthier mindsets.

As a person begins to reinvest in themselves and their life, they should become more self-confident and devoted to their self-care. Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a clean personal appearance, all things that can be ignored during addiction, become once again important.

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Working towards economic stability and regaining the confidence of employers are also valuable goals at this time. As a person progresses through their recovery, they may also find an opportunity to rebuild and reinvest in important relationships.

One of the most critical parts of the recovery process is aftercare. Maintaining sobriety takes hard work and perseverance. According to the Jellinek Curve, group therapy and mutual help groups should continue at this time.

Fortunately, many drug rehab centers offer aftercare and alumni support programs that connect treatment graduates to these and other resources.

One of the most interesting things about the Jellinek Curve is the right side, or the recovery side, doesn’t flatten out on top. Instead, it continues to climb up. This could represent the positive momentum and personal development that accompanies a strong, progressive recovery.

Finding Help For Drug Or Alcohol Addiction

It’s important to note that a person doesn’t have to hit rock bottom or ask for help on their own in order to successfully recover from drug or alcohol addiction. A person can begin their recovery at any stage of a substance use disorder.

Though individuals who choose help for themselves do have the benefit of starting treatment off with drive and ambition, treatment does not need to be voluntary for it to work. People who begin treatment in other ways can also build successful recoveries.

This may include people who are in denial or resistant to the idea of treatment. In these instances, a professional intervention may be necessary to help a person see that they need treatment.

Individuals who are forced to go to treatment, such as those who are attending a court-ordered drug rehab program, can build lasting recoveries from drugs or alcohol as well.

Each person’s path to sobriety is different and based on the unique characteristics of their life. People who are only mildly addicted may only need outpatient treatment. Medical detox and inpatient rehab program are still recommended for moderate to severe addiction.

Contact Addiction Campuses today to speak to a treatment specialist about drug addiction and alcoholism treatment programs.

Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs - https://www.jsad.com/doi/full/10.15288/jsad.2016.77.375

National Institute on Drug Abuse - https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment

State of Indiana - https://www.in.gov/judiciary/ijlap/files/jellinek.pdf

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