Description: Are addictions diseases? Is that the best way to think about them, especially in relation to approaches to treatment? Marc Lewis, a neuroscientist who struggled with addiction early in his life suggests we need to rethink the simple equating of addiction with disease if we are to properly understand addictions, and, more importantly, understand how addicts stop being addicted.
Source: Globe and Mail Book Review: The Biology of Desire
Date: August 14, 2015
Photo Credit: JOHN LEHMANN/GLOBE AND MAIL
The American Society of Addiction Medicine on its website defines addiction as follows: “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” Marc Lewis takes exception to this somewhat simplistic view (and to the alternative but equally simplistic views that addiction is entirely a matter of individual choice or that it is a matter of noxious environmental influence). Instead he argues for a more interactive model focused on how our motivational systems (desires) work to build patterns of addiction behaviour that change brain structures and neuro-chemistry along the way. Lewis argues that addicts who quit (and many do) succeed when they can begin to envision a future without drugs that is positive and thus motivating. Social support can also assist in this process. By contrast, a disease model takes control out of the hands of the addict and makes treatment initiation and support more difficult or less likely.
Questions for Discussion:
- What does Marc Lewis suggest needs to change about our current views of addiction?
- Are changes to brain neurochemistry and structure a part of Lewis’ model of addiction and treatment?
- What would intervention/treatment programs for addicts look like if Lewis’ model were generally adopted?
References (Read Further):
Lewis, Marc (2015) The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is Not a Disease, Doubleday Canada. http://www.memoirsofanaddictedbrain.com/authors-bio/