Is Addiction a Brain Disease?

This question has been debated by medical professionals, researchers, government officials, and addicts themselves for many years: is addiction a brain disease? Contemporary evidence points to the conclusion that addiction is a chronic brain disorder, not just a behavioral issue. The disease concept of addiction certainly fits most of the criteria for a legitimate illness—requiring only that an abnormal medical condition be present that causes dysfunction to the afflicted individual.

Is Addiction a Brain Disease

The Definition of Addiction

It is difficult to find a standardized definition of addiction because research continues to provide new information about this disorder. Addiction is classified as a brain disease by the most prominent organizations in the country focused on substance abuse, including the American Society of Addiction Medicine and The National Institute on Drug Abuse. According to comprehensive research conducted by the ASAM, addiction is characterized as:

“…a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”

However, it should be noted that there has been some discontent and debate in the medical community regarding the disease model of addiction. In a book and report published in the US National Library of Medicine, researcher Gene Heyman concludes that:

“…drug addiction as a chronic disease (like schizophrenia or diabetes) is both misleading and erroneous. In developing his argument, he points out that the best survey data available indicate that most drug addicts quit their addiction, a fact inconsistent with a chronic-disease model.”

Dr. Heyman’s findings certainly provoke consideration and require further review, as addiction is a complex disorder with biological, neurological, genetic, and environmental sources of origin. While it can be argued that the first “decision” to misuse a drug is a choice, the psychological and physical addiction that follows repeated use is not a choice.

Our Thoughts On Addiction

Is addiction a brain disease? In our opinion, it is certainly a chronic brain disorder that requires treatment and stabilization for recovery and remission. At Long Island Interventions, we promote a twelve-step philosophy of recovery that has saved countless lives throughout the world. Twelve-step teachings are based on the premise that addiction is a disease that is progressive, chronic, and fatal if left untreated. Many other illnesses can be categorized and explained using the same logic. We believe in treating the underlying behavioral issues that may have led to substance abuse, along with healing the symptoms of addiction through group therapy and individual counseling.

About Long Island Interventions

We’ve helped countless individuals and families that are affected by drug addiction and alcoholism across the New York area. Many people who develop a substance use disorder find it very difficult to stop using without professional help. If you or someone you know is looking for a detoxdrug rehabintervention, or outpatient drug rehab, our addiction resource center can help.

Long Island Interventions provides an opportunity for those struggling with substance abuse to recover safely. We believe in Long Island drug treatment programs that are solution-focused and evidence-based and our recovery advocates have decades of combined experience.

Are you or a loved one struggling with substance abuse?

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