Is viewing the concept of addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease really useful?

Posted on May 18, 2016 by Addiction Editor

pleasure-centerShould we be treating addiction a brain disease? Some academics argue that we shouldn’t.  The concept of addiction as a chronic brain disease concept will be discussed at The Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference 2016, themed Alcohol – Other Drugs – Behavioural Addictions, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery which opens tomorrow.

So, what exactly is addiction? What role, if any, does choice play? And if addiction involves choice, how can we call it a “brain disease,” with its implications of involuntariness?

Clinicians who treats people with drug problems, began to ask these questions when NIDA dubbed addiction a “brain disease.” Is it a too narrow a perspective from which to understand the complexity of addiction? Is addiction a problem of the brain or a problem of the person.

The disease-versus-choice dichotomy does have some value because it leads to emphasis on treatment over incarceration. But it deemphasizes the kind of treatment that works best: namely, treatment that relies on improving patient choice-making and self-control and that leverages the power of incentives and sanctions. This is what addicted people deserve to help them make better decisions in the future.

Is it far more productive to view addiction as a behavior that operates on several levels, ranging from molecular function and structure and brain physiology to psychology, psychosocial environment and social relations?

But NIDA researchers claim that the more we understand the neurobiological elements of addiction, the more we will see that addiction is a brain disease.

To some this may make more sense as concluding that because now we know more about the role of personality traits, such as anxiety, in increasing addiction risk, we can, at last, recognize that addiction is a disease of personality. It’s neither. Addiction is not a problem of one dimension. To read more at the conversation click here.

The Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference 2016, themed Alcohol – Other Drugs – Behavioural Addictions, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery begins tomorrow. There are six interactive optional informative pre-conference workshops running today.

There is still time to register your attendance as a full or day delegate CLICK HERE to register.

Hosted by The Australia and New Zealand Mental Health Association promotes and encourages participation from all parts of the sector towards a shared appreciation of what medical, psycho-social and peer-based approaches can offer, through the experiences of service users, clinicians, and researchers.

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