Blog: Why Addiction is NOT a Brain Disease

“Attempts to define addiction in concrete scientific terms have been highly controversial and are becoming increasingly politicized. What IS addiction? We as scientists need to know what it is, if we are to have any hope of helping to alleviate it.

There are three main definitional categories for addiction: a disease, a matter of choice, and self-medication. There is some overlap among these meta-models, but each has unique implications for treatment, from the level of government policy to that of available options for individual sufferers.”

Source: – November 12, 2012


  1. Philip Paris, M.D. says

    By grouping all addictions into a single theory, as a dopamine disorder, and then adding the well known high spontaneous recovery rate of alcoholism, this article loses all credibility. The author completely ignores the work of neuroscientists who have examined and documented profound opiate receptor changes in opiate addiction. Working hard at overcoming their addiction, even by working really hard at it, does not work for most all who are suffering from the life threatening condition of addiction to opiates.

  2. says

    So, how many alcoholics recover spontaneously? How many of them are able to sustain recovery? How DO people spontaneously recover from an addiction? Why are some people able to and others, not? What percentage of people are able to manipulate their own neuronal plasticity successfully? What type of assistance will help people accomplish this?
    If we could just get everybody enrolled in Herbert Benson’s Body/Mind Connection therapy and meditate and do yoga and CBT and eat right…maybe we wouldn’t need medicine?

  3. says

    Used to believe that addiction is indeed a disease, but now I’m not too sure. Yes, we can’t ignore neurological research that suggests that it is indeed a disease. And I don’t exactly agree that it is some sort of normality/learning, either.

    But I have to admit, they really are on something. How can we explain “cold turkey”? It doesn’t work for everyone, but how can we explain when it DOES work? There’s no such thing as just quitting a disease.

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