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why addiction is brain disease

Because it causes alterations in the way the brain functions and is organized, addiction is referred to as a “brain disease” because it can result in obsessive drug-seeking behavior and a failure to manage drug usage. Scientific study has shown that addiction is a complex disorder that affects the brain on several levels, contrary to the old perception of addiction as an ethical lapse or a lack of willpower. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as “a medical condition that is treatable and chronic that involves complex interactions between an individual’s experiences in life, genetics, environment, and brain circuits” (ASAM, 2019, p. 1). This description captures the idea that addiction involves underlying neurobiological components in addition to its behavioral manifestations. According to research, dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to motivation and pleasure, is released as part of the reward system in the brain, which is impacted by addiction. A decrease in reaction to rewards from nature and an increase in a need for the drug can be brought on by repeated drug use, which can alter the reward circuitry of the brain. Relapse risk is increased by these alterations, which may endure long after drug use has stopped (National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA, 2018).

Role of dopamine in addiction

Dopamine is intimately associated with addiction and is essential to the brain’s reward system. Dopamine is released in reaction to pleasurable experiences, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA, 2018) states that its release reinforces actions linked to motivation and pleasure. Dopamine is released when someone partakes in enjoyable activities, including indulging in delectable food or interacting with others; this creates a sense of reward and reinforces the behavior. Drugs have the ability to manipulate this reward system in a setting of addiction by either excessively releasing dopamine or by obstructing its usual uptake. A strong sense of pleasure is produced by this dopamine rush, which can promote drug-seeking behavior.

Treating addiction with medication

I agree with treating addiction with medication because for some people, using medicine as a kind of addiction treatment can be a successful and an advantage tactic. Drugs can aid with craving reduction, withdrawal symptoms management, and brain function restoration, among other elements of addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA, 2020) states that when taken in conjunction with behavioral therapy and other supportive interventions as part of an all-encompassing treatment plan, medicines can be very beneficial. Drugs like acamprosate and naltrexone can help treat alcohol addiction by reducing desires and blocking the rewarding effects of alcohol, while methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone have been demonstrated to be successful in treating opioid addiction by reducing symptoms of withdrawal and cravings.


National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). (2020). Types of treatment programs. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/types-treatment-programs

American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). (2019). Definition of addiction. https://www.asam.org/Quality-Science/definition-of-addiction

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). (2018). Drugs, brains, and behavior: The science of addiction. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drug-misuse-addiction

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