NIDA and NIAAA Come Out In Strong Support of Brain Disease Model of Addiction

By John Lavitt 07/31/15

Such a position will help to illuminate how drugs and alcohol affect brain processes.


In case anyone was still debating the facts, recent scientific evidence from both the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) strongly support the brain disease model of addiction. NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow and NIAAA Director Dr. George Koob published the commentary on the scientific evidence in The Lancet Psychiatry. NIDA and NIAAA are both part of the National Institutes of Health.

Written in response to a Personal View article by Wayne Hall and colleagues that questioned the evidence behind the disease model, the joint commentary by the respected addiction researchers and leaders clearly detail the scientific evidence supporting the disease model. Given ongoing debate over this issue in the treatment industry, progress in fully investigating and understanding the disease model, and how it can improve treatment outcomes is being limited.

The two National Institutes of Health directors point out that animal and human studies have shown that critical brain structures and behaviors are disrupted by chronic exposure to drugs and alcohol. In addition to ongoing research, such findings help to illuminate how drugs and alcohol affect brain processes associated with loss of control, compulsive drug taking, inflexible behavior, and negative emotional states associated with addiction.

By understanding these processes, researchers have been able to develop several effective addiction treatment medicines and treatment regimens. Following in these footsteps, new and promising medication targets to treat drug and alcohol addiction are being developed. Dr. Volkow and Dr. Koob highlight the impact of the disease framework and how its application has led directly to research into promising brain stimulation treatments and behavioral interventions. Beyond the science, the disease model of addiction and alcoholism clearly has had a positive impact on public policy.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.