With the recent overdose death of beloved actor Philip Seymour Hoffman in the news, this is a good time to discuss the causes of such tragedies. First and foremost, overdoses happen because people use drugs. People use drugs because they like the way the drugs make them feel. These facts will never change, so there […]
The recent debate between Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing from “Friends”) and Peter Hitchens about the nature of addiction and alcoholism on BBC’s Newsnight was utterly painful and sad to watch. Matthew Perry was there to push a drug court initiative, but shortly into the debate Hitchens called the idea that people can’t stop taking drugs […]
In an analysis of nicotine, cannabis, alcohol, and cocaine users (in which a vast majority were diagnosed with mood and anxiety disorders), the researchers found that: “No association was observed between mood and anxiety disorders and dependence remission for any of the substances assessed.”
For Brain Disease Skeptics
I'm quite skeptical about the simplistic neurological explanations for all of our modern troubles, ills, and aches. This article by Steven Poole at The New Statesmen is worth a read, and may give you reason to think twice and think critically about all the neuroscience claims irresponsibly swirling around in the popular media: "Your Brain On Pseudoscience"
I must also mention that simply placing the phrase "Brain scans indicate" before otherwise faulty explanations for psychological phenomena and human behavior renders such nonsense very believable by us common folk. Also reason to take pause when considering the "addiction is a brain disease" claims. Read about that exciting study here: Brain Scan Smokescreen.
And if I haven't already shared this link enough times, you can learn my opinion on the brain disease theory of addiction and its neuroscience "evidence" here: Addiction is NOT A Brain Disease. Neuroscientist Marc Lewis Ph.D. recently wrote a fantastic article article which seems to confirm my views from the previous link: Why Addiction Is Not A Brain Disease. He concludes that:
In my view, addiction (whether to drugs, food, gambling, or whatever) doesn’t fit a specific physiological category. Rather, I see addiction as an extreme form of normality, if one can say such a thing. Perhaps more precisely: an extreme form of learning. No doubt addiction is a frightening, often horrible, state to endure, whether in oneself or in one’s loved ones. But that doesn’t make it a disease.
These are my thoughts precisely. The neuroscience on addiction shows a process of learning. This is a normal function of the human brain - it is not a malfunction of the brain, which would be needed in order to claim it as a true brain disease. Learning is learning, and disease is disease - the difference matters, and will shape the approach we take towards helping people with such problems.
And here's one more brilliantly detailed opinion that calls the brain disease model of addiction and alcoholism into question, from Peter Cohen Ph.D. of the Centre For Drug Research in Amsterdam: Modern Neuro Science and the Concept of Addiction. Cohen's thinking also seems to support The Freedom Model Philosophy that I use in my work with the SJP.