Position Paper: Is Addiction a Brain Disease?
Addiction, it is all around us, affecting people from all walks of life, it is not limited to certain social classes or lifestyles. It is found in every ethnic group, regardless of gender or age. It affects our neighbors, our friends, and our family either directly or indirectly. Although substances such as alcohol and illegal drugs are two of the most common addictions we hear about, there is a wide range of substances and even activities such as gambling and shopping. There is some debate whether addiction is a brain disease or a choice. This controversy has been going on for years and a decision whether or not addiction is a brain disease has yet to be reached. According to a publication Is Addiction a Brain Disease? (1998) , by two psychiatrists, Sally Satel, M.D., and Frederick K. Goodwin, M.D., both argue “the virtues of thinking about addiction as a primary, though modifiable, behavioral phenomenon, rather than simply as a brain disease”. That is, addiction is a function of a person, rather than simply a physical state” (Satel, Goodwin, 1998, p. 3). According to a publication by the National Institution of Drug Abuse (NIDA, 2007), “addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences as well as neurochemical and molecular changes in the brain” (NIDA, 2007). For the purpose of this paper the focus will be on the substance of drugs of abuse when discussing ‘addiction’, but before getting into the two controversial sides another definition we can look at outside of these two opinions is taken from textbook, Psychology 10th Ed, by David G. Myers: “Addiction is a compulsive drug craving and use, despite adverse consequences” (Myers, 113). 3
PRO: Drug Addiction is a Brain Disease.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that addiction is a brain disease. The initial decision to take drugs is a person’s voluntary choice. However, once a person takes that drug of abuse it can effect “the pleasurable area of the brain” (NIDA, 2007), in which, addiction takes over the person’s capability of self control, which can result in harmful actions. Thus, when a person uses drugs over a long period of time the brain structure and the way it operates changes resulting in harmful effects and actions. Addiction is tied to changes in brain structure and function, basically making it a brain disease. Furthermore, all drugs of abuse have common affects one way or another within the brain, which activates “the pleasurable area of the brain” (NIDA, 2007). Drugs of abuse reward our normal actions, therefore, if the brain gets a lot of stimulation it produces pleasant feelings, which drives a person to continually use drugs over and over. NIDA also points out that from science research “brain-imaging studies from drug-addicted individuals have shown physical changes in areas of the brain that are critical for judgment, decision making, learning and memory, and behavior control” (NIDA, 2007) which indicates that once those areas of the brain are disturbed so is a person’s capability of freely choosing not to take drugs, leading to negative actions. Additionally, science research shows that these changes alter the way the brain functions, which may explain the uncontrollable and negative actions of a person. Furthermore, according to NIDA addiction can be treated and managed successfully since it is a chronic disease and research has shown that combining behavioral therapy with medications is the best way to ensure success for most patients with this chronic disease indicating that it is a treatable and manageable similar to other brain diseases. 4
CON: Addiction is not a Brain Disease.
According to a publication retrieved from Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) “Is Addiction a Brain Disease?” two psychiatrists, Sally Satel, M.D., and Frederick K. Goodwin, M.D., they do not agree...
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