Is Addiction a Disease? Partnership to End Addiction

High levels of these substances suppress the reward circuit and activate the endogenous stress response, resulting in a generalized state of discord. These changes are enduring and can trigger substance use relapse even after long periods of abstinence. Environmental risk factors for addiction are the experiences of an individual during their lifetime that interact with the individual’s genetic composition to increase or decrease their vulnerability to addiction. A number of different environmental factors have been implicated as risk factors for addiction, including various psychosocial stressors. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) cites lack of parental supervision, the prevalence of peer substance use, drug availability, and poverty as risk factors for substance use among children and adolescents. The brain disease model of addiction posits that an individual’s exposure to an addictive drug is the most significant environmental risk factor for addiction.

However, some recent US data have found that girls ages years have rates of alcohol and illicit drug abuse or dependence equal to or greater than those for boys [123, 124]. Despite these differences, some gender-related differences appear relatively consistent across disorders. Differences sober house in motivations for engaging in addictive behaviors also exist between females and males, with women more likely to participate to escape from negative mood states (negative reinforcement) and men more likely to participate to experience positive feelings (positive reinforcement) [ ].

Journal of Adolescent Health

A sizable body of research evidence addresses four domains of potential biological influence on the development of substance use disorders and addiction. People with a substance use disorder can still reduce their use or abstain — it’s just much harder than it is for others. Just like any other disease people need to be able to get quality, evidence-based treatment and care. In general, the two theories under consideration play an important role in explaining the etiology of addiction.

It is important to note that one person’s reaction to the reward experience may be quite different from another’s. This realization should help us cultivate empathy for those with addiction—it is very likely that others truly do not know how drugs make them feel. In my new book, The Abstinence Myth, I rely on this nuanced understanding of addiction as the basis to my system for overcoming addiction. This is also the foundation for my IGNTD Recovery Course which aims to generate hope rather than hopelessness. I believe that you can personalize your recovery and see immediate results, regardless of your specific mix of factors and circumstances. The growing body of data on the neurobiology of addiction has the potential to address more effectively one of the major public health problems facing societies today.

Comorbid Disorders

The genetic model has almost the same characteristics; still, it also shows that the evaluation of some environmental factors may be an integral step. This is why physiology of addiction supports the biological model due to its functions and abilities to investigate the chosen phenomenon as a complex mechanism that has to work accordingly. In its turn, the genetic model is supported by neurobiology as the changes and control are observed in the human brain. This is why the chosen models identify an idea of medical treatment and group support during the whole life. It becomes more important to think about the constant activities with the help of which a person may achieve the required control and cope with the dependence that has genetic roots.

biological model of addiction

Duncan applied a public health model to drug dependence, where the agent (the drug of choice) infects the host (the drug user) through a vector (e.g., peers), while the environment supports the disease process through stressors and lack of support. A crucial determinant of whether a drug user develops drug abuse is the presence or absence of negative reinforcement, which is experienced by problematic users, but not by recreational users. According to Duncan, drug dependence is an avoidance behavior, where an individual finds a drug that produces a temporary escape from a problem, and taking the drug is reinforced as an operant behavior. Dr. Nestler studies the molecular basis of addiction and depression in animal models, focusing on the brain pathways that regulate responses to natural rewards such as food, sex and social interaction. His research has established that drug- and stress-induced changes in genetic transcription factors and chromatin remodeling mechanisms in reward pathways mediate long-lived behavioral changes relevant to addiction and depression.

Addiction Treatment Programs

Gender is one of the leading indicators of addiction potential, drawing a few interesting lines in the sand regarding the different risk factors facing men and women. Adi Jaffe, Ph.D., is a lecturer at UCLA and the CEO of IGNTD, an online company that produces podcasts and educational programs on mental health and addiction. It’s important to understand the neurological basis of addiction and drug use because it can be helpful in understanding why one person may develop an addiction and another may not.

  • As advocates of mental health and wellness, we take great pride in educating our readers on the various online therapy providers available.
  • To treat addiction, scientists have identified several medications and behavioral therapies—especially when used in combination—that can help people stop using specific substances and prevent relapse.
  • The brain disease model of addiction posits that an individual’s exposure to an addictive drug is the most significant environmental risk factor for addiction.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports on substance dependence/abuse rates in various population demographics across the United States. When surveying populations based on race and ethnicity in those ages 12 and older, it was observed that American Indian/Alaskan Natives were among the highest rates and Asians were among the lowest rates in comparison to other racial/ethnic groups. Ricky finds that psychodynamic and sociocultural treatments just aren’t enough for him.

Cross addiction is when one already has a predisposed addiction and then starts to become addicted to something different. If one family member has a history of addiction, the chances of a relative or close family developing those same habits are much higher than one who has not been introduced to addiction at a young age. In a recent study done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, from 2002 to 2017, overdose deaths have almost tripled amongst male and females.

  • A central component in this circuitry is the nucleus accumbens located in the ventral striatum and receiving dopaminergic innervation from the ventral tegmental area (termed the mesolimbic dopamine system).
  • Using the above-described frameworks to consider the neurocircuitry involved in addictions, it is important to consider that changes may occur over time in the structure and function of these brain motivational pathways.

People with the most serious form of SUD usually need intensive treatment followed by lifelong management of the disease. However, some people experiencing addiction stop drinking or using other substances without treatment. Others achieve recovery by attending self-help meetings without receiving much, if any, professional treatment. With the help and support of family, friends and peers to access help and stay in treatment, people struggling with a substance use disorder can increase their chances of recovery and survival.

That’s at least partly because hormones released in the body during stressful situations can flip different genetic switches in some people predisposed to addiction, changing the ways they receive and interact with chemicals sent out by the brain’s reward system. This chemical interaction can further tie in our minds the concepts of drug or alcohol consumption and the sensation of satisfaction or relief. Social norms, availability, accessibility, legality, modeling, expectancies, societal approval, visibility, targeting practices, and cultural beliefs all influence the experience of addiction. An individual exposed to drug use at an early age can be influenced by social modeling (or learning via observation). Additionally, certain environments have specific social norms related to drug use (e.g., “Everyone experiments a little with drugs in college”).

What was the first model of addiction?

The first model viewed addiction as a moral failure for which addicts are rightly held responsible and judged accordingly.

Early reward-centric models focused on pleasurable aspects of taking drugs and proposed that drugs may “hijack” brain circuits involved in responses to “natural” rewards like sex or food [35, 36]. A central component in this circuitry is the nucleus accumbens located in the ventral striatum and receiving dopaminergic innervation from the ventral tegmental area (termed the mesolimbic dopamine system). This nucleus accumbens has at times been termed the brain’s “reward center” given that all known drugs with abuse potential, as well as natural rewards, lead to dopamine release in this structure [37, 38]. Consistent with a role for rewarding effects of drugs in addictive processes and a role for dopamine in this process, an incentive salience model of drug addiction proposes that “liking” a drug may be separated from “wanting” [42, 43]. Another reward-based model suggests a “reward deficiency syndrome” in which individuals with addictions seek out and engage in addictive behaviors to compensate for hypo-functioning reward signals in the mesolimbic dopamine pathway [44].

Drugs of abuse target discrete collections of nerve cells—called circuits—in the brain that normally regulate responses to natural rewards in the environment, like food, sex, and social interactions. The areas of brain involved in these circuits are referred to as brain reward regions. Drugs corrupt these brain regions and circuits by activating them with abnormal power and persistence, actions that trigger adaptations at the molecular and cellular levels that are aimed to compensate for the drug-induced effects. These adaptations enable a drug to gradually and progressively take control over a vulnerable individual’s life. During this Webinar, Dr. Nestler will describe these molecular, cellular, and circuit actions of drugs of abuse and how knowledge gained from this work can be used to develop more effective treatments of addiction. Importantly, policy may be informed across addictive behaviors in a manner that benefits from effective interventions in other domains.

biological model of addiction

It explains how these changes create a compulsion to continue using substances, regardless of the consequences. The biological model of addiction is used to explain why some people become addicted to certain substances, while others use the same substances but do not become addicted. This model demonstrates how addiction is seen as a disease that impacts each individual differently. It’s based on an understanding of how drugs work in the brain, along with an awareness of the genetic and environmental factors that affect each individual’s experience with addiction. A secondary motivational neurocircuitry has been proposed to explain how other brain circuits may influence motivational decision-making processes and behaviors within the primary circuitry [50].

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments