Is Addiction a “Brain Disease?”


Is Addiction a “Brain Disease?"

It is nothing new that society discriminates against those with addiction problems. It doesn’t matter if you are a drug and alcohol addict or either one, society tends to stigmatize. Perhaps if addiction was treated like other biological diseases, those suffering from it would not suffer this stigma. 

The particular type of cerebral abnormality may assist to determine the set of required treatments and safeguards. For instance, the brain is more malleable in teenagers. It suggests a need for caution with them as an earlier exposure to addictive substances will cause greater damage.

The Science of Addiction

The prefrontal cortex of the brain is used for planning and achieving targets. The prefrontal cortex serves many functions. These functions include impulse control, focusing, predicting the outcome of decisions and preparing for the future. Flaws in this part’s functionality is often associated with an addicted person’s inability to stop abusing substances.  

This inability to stop can also be linked to how the brain reacts to being deprived of substances it has become used to. The emotional feedback is usually negative and sometimes the abuser may fall into despair.  In the course of substance abuse treatments, reminders or triggers –such as the smell of beer or a dealer’s corner- may intensify the want for the substance. It is important to note that simple pleasure triggers – such as a stunning view or a social call- may no longer excite the brain of those in drug rehab. This is because drugs and alcohol fill the brain with exhilarating neurotransmitters, mainly dopamine and the simple pleasures can’t compare.

Substance abuse treatment is easily explained by the easily identified by the science behind it. The brain’s cravings can be satiated by Agonist medications –such as methadone and buprenorphine- while the damage to the prefrontal cortex is being repaired.

How does knowing this help to overcome addiction?

To say no is not just enough. The person in the drug rehab program has to build a new internal reward system. They need to learn to find happiness in the simpler things of life without being intoxicated. In the case of those who initially isolated themselves, they might need to step up their social interaction game and enjoy other outdoor pleasures.

At the same time, to say that drug and alcohol abuse is wholly biological is not right. Some people can pick when to use or not. Some people also exhibit the ability to grow out of it without medical treatment despite an unhealthy history with drugs and alcohol. These people walk a thin line though.


Accepting that there is a biological explanation may help lessen the guilt that a user feels. It may also help that this biological cause may extend to genes and situations beyond their control. Appreciating what counts for normal joy and happiness and having the strength to choose to reject the gratuitous feeling that comes from a craving, when continuously practiced can become routine. Getting good at this routine may lead to an even better life than before.


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