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Is Addiction A Disease?

January 9, 2017

In order to define the pathology or etiology of a disease consists of three things; of a disease, an organ, defect, symptoms (McCauley, 2009). From the biomedical model the brain is the organ that has an abnormal neurobiological reaction pertaining to the neurotransmitters dopamine and GABA. The defect is the deficiency and overcompensation of dopamine which results in symptoms such as tolerance and withdrawal. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA] addiction is a brain disease because of the changes in the brain that occur as a result of substance use. This concept pertains to the neuroplasticity of the brain psychological and physical reliance occurs. The biomedical model depicts how the mesolimbic dopamine system and the stimulatory and reinforcing an individual and affect their behavior.

There are some individuals that claims addiction is not a disease. Even the leader in neuroscience Eric Kandel Nobel Prize laureaate finds those individuals to be irrelevant and incorrect. When Eric Kandel and Nora Volkow tell you you’re off base, they’re probably right.

The most interesting point is that addictions impacts the neuroplasticity about how the changes of the brain pertain to language and learning which is true. But to say that language and learning discredit the disease concept is offensive to the 5 million individuals that have Alzheimer’s disease. explain the influx of high socio-economic Eurocentric heroin users? If addiction is not a disease, then one needs to address the American Medical Association and address diabetes, hypertension, cancer, Alzheimer’s, stroke, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s being classified as diseases. Research conducted using positron emission tomography (PET) demonstrated how endogenous opioids released into the orbitofrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens provides insight to how complex the intricacies are in the human brain relating to OUDs (Mitchell et al., 2012). Opioids increase the quantity of dopamine released in the brain reward system referred to the mesolimbic reward pathway and simulate the effects of endogenous opioids. Depending on the route of administration (injection, snorting, smoking, suppository, ingestion) the opioids pass through the blood brain barrier at different rates. From there the activation of the opioid receptors in the reward pathways cause a rush of euphoria, which then is followed by relaxation and perception disturbances (Powers, 2012).

Physical dependence is a literal change in biochemistry. Which is literally identical to hypertension and diabetes in pathology. Addiction involves the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex as the centers of addiction. Addiction additionally impacts the mesolymbic cortical pathways pertaining to dopamine and glutamate both of which supersede the prefrontal cortex. Specifically, D2 receptors. Anyone that has access to scholarly articles can literally prove this with science.. Experts agree that there is more to substance use disorders than just neurochemistry, but if by every definition of the word, Addiction is a disease.

Written by – Adam McLean
McCauley, K. T. (Director). (2009). Pleasure unwoven [Documentary]. USA : Institute
for Addiction Study.

Powers, J. (2012). When the servant becomes the master. Central Recovery Press: Las Vegas, NV:



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