Physical dependence is easy to deal with. Spend a week in a detox ward, and you’re done. Deeply ingrained beliefs are not quite as simple. No medication or surgical procedure can change the fact that someone believes that chasing the cheap thrills of drugs and alcohol is a better use of their time than any [...]
It is clear to me from both the research I have seen (check out Nick Heather’s book Controlled Drinking or the NIAAA’s NESARC studies for references on this fact) and from personal experience and observation that it is completely possible and indeed probable for people who have formerly had problems with drug and alcohol use [...]
In my work helping people with substance use problems, I am an instructor rather than a counselor, therapist, or medical professional of some kind. The people I work with read a textbook, complete written assignments, and come to class to review the reading, their work, and the ideas contained within. It is truly a unique [...]
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.