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Why it's Important to Recognize Addiction as a Brain Disease

May 29

Addiction is currently regarded as to be a mental disorder according to WHO. World Health Organization (WHO). But, this view is not supported by many addicts and experts. They believe that addiction should be classified as a brain condition, since it has numerous similarities with other illnesses like epilepsy and dementia, and Alzheimer's. This article explains the reasons to reclassify addiction as a brain disorder and the reasons why it is important.

A recent overview of research conducted by M. Heilig and J. MacKillop published in Nature examines the basis of the most frequently criticized aspects of a neurobiologically-focused understanding of addiction disorders. The authors assert that this view about addiction being a neurodegenerative disease doesn't necessarily mean that a particular characteristic will always lead to an identifiable pattern of behavior. It also does not need that recovery and remission for alcoholics and addicts have similarities. In the end the authors suggest that knowing that addiction is a brain disorder can increase access to resources for recovery as it can lead to less stigma associated with the disease. As the summary of their review reads,

risky substance use, substance use disorder, addiction

"The view that substance addiction is a brain disease, although widely accepted in the neuroscience community, has become subject to acerbic criticism in recent years. These criticisms state that the brain disease view is deterministic, fails to account for heterogeneity in remission and recovery, places too much emphasis on a compulsive dimension of addiction, and that a specific neural signature of addiction has not been identified. We acknowledge that some of these criticisms have merit, but assert that the foundational premise that addiction has a neurobiological basis is fundamentally sound. We also emphasize that denying that addiction is a brain disease is a harmful standpoint since it contributes to reducing access to healthcare and treatment, the consequences of which are catastrophic. Here, we therefore address these criticisms, and in doing so provide a contemporary update of the brain disease view of addiction. We provide arguments to support this view, discuss why apparently spontaneous remission does not negate it, and how seemingly compulsive behaviors can co-exist with the sensitivity to alternative reinforcement in addiction. Most importantly, we argue that the brain is the biological substrate from which both addiction and the capacity for behavior change arise, arguing for an intensified neuroscientific study of recovery. More broadly, we propose that these disagreements reveal the need for multidisciplinary research that integrates neuroscientific, behavioral, clinical, and sociocultural perspectives." 

Recovery from addiction is possible, it happens every day at addiction treatment centers like All In Solutions. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to alcohol or drugs including opioids, benzodiazepines, cocaine, methamphetamine, or marijuana, you should know that effective and professional help is available and within reach. A simple phone call is all it takes to start down a path of recovery beginning with an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation program. You can learn more about All In Solutions at or visit them in Boynton Beach, Florida or Cherry Hill, New Jersey