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Drug Addiction: A Brain Disease?

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Biology 202
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

Drug Addiction: A Brain Disease?

Nicole Pietras

When people hear the words drug addict, these words have negative connotations and stigmas attached to them. People visualize a person who does not care about anything, including family, work, or commitments, except for obtaining money to buy drugs to get high. However, there are many people who are drug addicts that maintain a normal, functioning life. Before we can examine why these people are addicted to drugs, one must first define the word addict.

George F. Koob defines addiction as a compulsion to take a drug without control over the intake and a chronic relapse disorder (1). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association defined "substance dependence" as a syndrome basically equivalent to addiction, and the diagnostic criteria used to describe the symptoms of substance dependence to a large extent define compulsion and loss of control of drug intake (1). Considering drug addiction as a disorder implies that there are some biological factors as well as social factors.

There are many biological factors that are involved with the addicted brain. "The addicted brain is distinctly different from the nonaddicted brain, as manifested by changes in brain metabolic activity, receptor availability, gene expression, and responsiveness to environmental cues." (2) In the brain, there are many changes that take place when drugs enter a person's blood stream. The pathway in the brain that the drugs take is first to the ventral tegmentum to the nucleus accumbens, and the drugs also go to the limbic system and the orbitofrontal cortex, which is called the mesolimbic reward system. The activation of this reward system seems to be the common element in what hooks drug users on drugs (2).

Drugs seem to cause surges in dopamine neurotransmitters and other pleasure brain messengers. However, the brain quickly adapts and these circuits desensitize, which allows for withdrawal symptoms to occur (3). Drug addiction works on some of the same neurobiological mechanisms that aid in learning and memories (3). "This new view of dopamine as an aid to learning rather than a pleasure mediator may help explain why many addictive drugs, which unleash massive surges of the neurotransmitter in the brain, can drive continued use without producing pleasure-as when cocaine addicts continue to take hits long after the euphoric effects of the drug have worn off or when smokers smoke after cigarettes become distasteful." (4)

Since memory and pleasure zones are intertwined in the brain, many researchers have been using psychological approaches to stop drug use. Many rehabilitation centers have used classical conditioning to rehabilitate drug addicts. They combine exposure to drugs combined with cognitive scripts, like statements how drugs have destroyed a person's life or what can be accomplished without using drugs, according to DeLetis (5). By using classical conditioning, the drugs addicts pair the drugs with negative connotations and properties. "Adverse withdrawal symptoms can function as an instrumental negative reinforcer and can be linked to the opponent process theory of motivation." (6) However, drug addicts may relapse and start using again because of many environmental "cues", which are external forces that are associated with drug use in their lives. When the drugs addicts see these cues, their brain circuitry, especially the orbitofrontal cortex become hyperactive and causes these people to start craving drugs again (2). No matter how successful the rehabilitation treatment is, once those "cues" are around, the drug addicts remember how pleasurable the drugs felt and relapse into drug abuse again.

Through all of the research done about drug addiction and its affects on the brain, one can see how drug addiction is considered a brain disease. Drug addiction is a disabling disease and can ruin a person's life. By taking drugs, a person's brain becomes "rewired" to tolerate high amounts of dopamine neurotransmitters, but once those high amounts of dopamine cease to exist, the person experiences withdrawal symptoms. However, there are ways drug addicts can control their drug intake by using classical conditioning techniques, which allows them to associate drugs with negative attributes.



1) Neurobiology of Addiction: Toward the Development of New Therapies

2) Addiction Is a Brain Disease, and It Matters

3) Beyond the Pleasure Principle

4) Getting the Brain's Attention

5) Provider Uses Exposure Response Therapy for Addiction

6) Neurobiological Mechanisms of Nicotine Craving

Comments made prior to 2007
I am a drug addict, and an alcoholic. I have tried so many things trying to quit, and all of them have rendered useless. I've been to treatment, been on Methadone, tried AA, NA, councilling and nothing is doing it. I have no where else to turn or nothing left to do besides just give in to this damned disease and die, which is something I DO NOT WANT. I was a nurse before and lost my license to practice because of my addiction. I still have my child, but barely. Children Services have become involved and have threatened to take her if I don't quit. I want to quit so bad. So bad it hurts. I didn't choose this lifestyle and don't know what to do next. If you have any suggestions I would so appreciate them. I am a 40 year old single mom of two beautiful girls, I help to look after my aging parents and have used them for money more times than I can count. I am a good person with a good heart. If it wasn't for this damned disease, things would be so much better, but I can't kick it. Right now I'm not using hard drugs but I smoke marijuana daily, and I've hit the bottle again. I so don't want to lose my child, or my life, but I"m heading that way. I can't seem to maintain any length of sobriety longer than a few months, and I'm at a loss. Anything you can send me to help me would be so appreciated. God Bless you for this, and thank you again ... Nancy Brisson, 9 April 2007



I have been clean and sober for the past 6 months and with in that time I completed 2 courses and recieved a full time job. I used for about 12 years and it wasn't a controlled addiction. My message is try being clean and sober you will love it but it is a trying time so you do need support ... Kelly, 6 June 2007


Billy O.'s picture

A recovering addict

I have been clean and sober for over three years now. Thank you this is a good read. Upon getting sober, I had to understand how alcoholism/addiction is a disease. It didn't make sense at first but now it is the only way I can understand it. However, like most fatal diseases nowadays, it can be treated. I was a heroin addict and an alcoholic. I shot heroin and I would get clean, only to replace my addiction with alcohol and prescription pills. I was able to stop from time to time, but never stay stopped. I couldn't just be sober. I was able to get help from New Life House and I've been sober ever since. If you or a loved one is suffering check out their website and they may be able to help.

da bishop's picture


Absolutely I agree that hijacking neurotransmitters to produce an unnatural state reprograms the mind.

I've seen it happen to a good few friends of mine, they learn quite quickly how to access the "reward" of taking drugs, and other things pale in comparison. The fervour with which they explain their pleasure or "fun" of taking these class A drugs is depressing to me.

The whole trick is that the pleasure obtained from drugs is the same pleasure that one derives from eating food, or sunshine. There must be a point that people reach where they realise that even though it feels the same, it's not real.

Certainly resetting one's balance would take considerable willpower, and the neurological injuries produced by the toxic metabolites will have a lengthy recovery period. The real issue will doubtless be un-learning the circuits of associating the drug with extreme pleasure. That presumably takes time and effort, and the development of wisdom.

Renee's picture

My partner had a meth

My partner had a meth problem. His family didn't help me. I had a eight month old and an 18month old and packed my stuff the morning after he punched me. I agree with most of you on here.. I think mental illness plays a part in some people but then I'm confused too. It's nearly been a year and we are working things out, but he told me he did drugs a few weeks ago. I think the choices people make frustrates me. I told him not to see the drug dealer/friend and he still does. I'm the only one that is helping him. I don't understand why his family won't. If he gets bad again, I'm not sure I could handle going through what I went through, my children were young so they didn't see stuff. But there getting older now. How long do you think is a good time to stay clean? I have said 12mths with no drugs at all?

Eddie's picture

Reply to "My partner..."

It is unfortunate but it is my experience that if someone has a drug addiction problem then the only solution is complete and absolute abstinence. Once I crossed that invisible line (where using drugs was no longer a choice but something that I had to do) there was no way for me to use drugs in any form safely. One it or whatever would start the ball rolling again and I would be caught in a never-ending cycle. Things would get worse but not better. I got clean and sober witht he help of a sober living. I have been clean for 8 years. I can't guarantee anything but I do not plan to use ever again. I think that my life would fall apart completely if I decided to get high again. So I don't! I got help from a sober living called the New Life House. Check out their site if you are looking for help

Ar'iff's picture

from 5yrs experience., its a

from 5yrs experience., its a lifetime struggle, to stay clean. Read the post by Nancy Brisson, 9 April 2007 regarding her struggle. its the same. he might actually feel the same way, doesnt want it, wants his life back, but still stuck with the is also true that environmental "cues" can lead to a person's craving. when im in my hometown., its the hardest to stay away. early this year i travelled to europe for a month and i have been clean for the whole trip. wat im trying to say is., maybe starting a new wud need everything else to be brand new, socially/environmentally. God bless ur family. peace be upon you.

Norma's picture

the disease of addiction

I just read your paper and found that your words finally defined what I was thinking in my own "diseased" brain. I am 10 months in my recovery and I feel so comforted in finding some reasons as to why I made the choices that I did. After being the practice administrator of a very successful medical practice, I made the choice of writing my own prescriptions for a very "hidden" addiction from my employers, coworkers, family and friends. Being found out and losing my job pushed me into treatment and I have never been more thankful that it happened. I don't have to live a secret life anymore and I getting to opportunity now to really discover who I am. Even at the age of 50 I am learning so much about the behavior that I have exhibited all my life whether I was using drugs or not.
I see that this was written in 2008, so I hope that you are now knee deep in your work in addiction. You can help many many people.
Thank you.

Serendip Visitor's picture

The Brain and Addiction

Nicole- Thanks for your post. I work at PaRC aka Memorial Hermann in Houston. We have a large number of docs that work on our addiction unit that would also say that addiction is a disease that centers in the mind. We also take pride in having evidence based practices and interventions for our patients. Thanks again for your post.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Listen to Joyce Meyer's Podcasts

"You dont have to do what what you feel like doing, you are free to do what you know is WISE"
-Joyce Meyer-

This article says that the frontal side of the brain becomes overactive, so the real battle is in the mind. The real problem is that we have been believing a lie. by relying in our emotions.I have something that helped me overcome my addiction. Listen to Joyce Meyers podcasts. If you believe in Jesus Christ, you will find it very revealing the first time you listen to this woman. Joyce Meyer was abused sexually more than 200 time, she had to fight with many thoughts. We have never tried it all, because there always is an answer.

Options for listening:
Youtube or iTunes (Podcasts)

It changed my life knowing that I dont have to trust my emotions.

Serendip Visitor's picture

It's only a brain disease when

It's only a brain disease when you have a mental disorder like I do.

Mental Health & Addiction

Jackie's picture


I disagree. You do not have to have a mental illness to be a drug addict. Substance abuse IS a disease of the brain, without a mental illness. It is genetic, a predisposed condition. If the addict chose to never use drugs, they would not be addicted. There are many people who can "use" recreationlly and not become addicted. Others are not so lucky. Just look at the studies of the brains of an addict........before and after drug use. They are very diffrent from birth. So, just because you are an addict, does not mean death. As long as an addict is alive , there is always the chance of lifelong recovery.

Justin's picture

Mental illness is mental

Mental illness is mental illness is mental illness.

Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.

Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible.

Some mental illnesses have been linked to an abnormal balance of special chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters.

Other biological factors that may be involved in the development of mental illness include:

Genetics (heredity): Many mental illnesses run in families, suggesting that people who have a family member with a mental illness are more likely to develop one themselves. Susceptibility is passed on in families through genes. Experts believe many mental illnesses are linked to abnormalities in many genes -- not just one. That is why a person inherits a susceptibility to a mental illness and doesn't necessarily develop the illness. Mental illness itself occurs from the interaction of multiple genes and other factors --such as stress, abuse, or a traumatic event -- which can influence, or trigger, an illness in a person who has an inherited susceptibility to it.

Infections: Certain infections have been linked to brain damage and the development of mental illness or the worsening of its symptoms. For example, a condition known as pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder (PANDA) associated with the Streptococcus bacteria has been linked to the development of obsessive-compulsive disorder and other mental illnesses in children.

Brain defects or injury: Defects in or injury to certain areas of the brain have also been linked to some mental illnesses.

Prenatal damage: Some evidence suggests that a disruption of early fetal brain development or trauma that occurs at the time of birth -- for example, loss of oxygen to the brain -- may be a factor in the development of certain conditions, such as autism.

Substance abuse: Long-term substance abuse, in particular, has been linked to anxiety, depression, and paranoia.

Other factors: Poor nutrition and exposure to toxins, such as lead, may play a role in the development of mental illnesses.

So whether substance abuse lead us to mental illness or mental illness lead us to substance abuse. Who cares! Accept. Acknowledge. And take necessary action.

fd's picture

if we accept the premise that

if we accept the premise that addiction is a disease, then we are accepting the innevitable death it will bring (much like an aggressive cancer). to accept this disease concept is to abandon all hope. if we accept that addiction is primarily a series of poor choice with an element of biochemistry, then can we not at least hold out hope that the addict will be strong enough to overcome. i don't have an answer as to whether it is a disease or a choice, but for the sake of my loved one's life i am praying that it is a choic.

Norma's picture

disease of addiction

Why can it not be both? I disagree with your comment that to accept this as a disease is to abandon all hope. If you are told you have a disease, for instance diabetes, does accepting the fact that it is a disease and acknowledging that you have it sentence you to die. I don't think so. However, if you do nothing to treat the disease, or alter your lifestyle (like your diet) then maybe so. The same is with addiction. Acknowledging that you have the disease of addiction doesn't give you the right to keep using, nor does accepting the fact that you have diabetes gives you to right to keep eating twinkies! Addiction is a brain disease. There are many suggestions as to what may have "activated" this disease. You mentioned biochemistry; I believe that would be defined as having a dysfunctional brain. That is where your "biochemistry" is produced. Again, just like insulin is produced in your pancreas, making diabetes a disease of the pancreas.
The problem with people who have the disease of addiction it causes major behavioral consequences which most often times hurt the people we love the most. I can almost feel your pain in just the few words you wrote. I am the addict, but if I were the family member instead it would give me great relief to find out that it is a disease and not just choices. Don't misunderstand me, I agree that choices are involved but the whole premise of addiction is that there is something driving those choices that we sometimes have what seems like no control over. I believe that it takes months, maybe years for the "biochemistry" in your brain to settle down without drugs and stops driving you to use drugs and/or alcohol; it is really the same for an addict. I guess to sum all this up; just because your loved one makes choices, that you cannot understand unless you are an addict, it doesn't mean he/she doesn't love you very much. You can't imagine the hurt and shame the addict feels for hurting loved ones, and sometimes it is the very reason we keep using... we just can't take the pain of realizing our past actions and the hurt they have caused. We sink back into our addiction to escape the pain. For many addicts, finding something that produced pleasure that hid their painful feelings is what caused the brain to overreact and produce way to many pleasurable neurotransmitters (biochemistry) which ultimately drives the "bus" of addiction that we are riding on. We don't know where it is going or what is passing us by, we just know we feel good ridng the bus, so we just stay on it. The chose of getting off is just so hard for us to imagine that sometimes we just don't try. Just a little bit of understanding and patience from the ones we love can help that big hurt that we ( the addict) feel.
I pray that "your" addict is doing well and would highly suggest you try to read as much information about addiction as you can and maybe even go to Al-Anon for support. Encourage your loved one to attend AA/NA as well. It will save their life.

Justin's picture

Are we accepting the

Are we accepting the inevitable death? Maybe. If we don't acknowledge addiction as a valid disease. What happens when a disease is left untreated? Chances are it won't be "much like an aggressive cancer". It will be an aggressive cancer. Not to be rude but leaving this up to prayer and not accepting this as a disease in my opinion is abandoning all hope.

I feel for anyone in the position of having to deal with addiction. Whether the addiction lies within or surrounds us with our loved ones. It makes us so mad to see our loved ones hurt themselves to the extent that they do. And by not having straight forward answers to the complexity of how addiction affects the mind. It leaves us with wanting to choose a less complex answer. Hope. That they'll just snap out of it. Or blame. So who's to blame? Blame isn't necessary. Is poor choice accountable? Sounds like another blame. And by not having an obvious choice in answers. The finger gets pointed endlessly. There is no one answer. No single treatment is appropriate for everyone. However treatment is necessary.

I think people get irritated at the disease concept because it almost seems as if we are giving them an excuse. And with that excuse, a permit to continue. I've known alcoholics/addicts that lived, worked and died by their vices. And for the average balanced brain these actions seem completely ludicrous. But for them, for some reason, it completely makes sense.

So you have those who feel that its a disease. And you have those who feel its a poor choice. Regardless of who is right. If its genetics, environmental, poor choice whatever. Treatment is a must. If it is a chemical imbalance, situational or what it may be that will be figured out. But please acknowledge treatment. Disease or not.

Rachelle's picture

Disease as a crutch

I was addicted to cocaine for a few years and one day I realized that I couldn't live like this anymore. I realize overcoming cocaine addiction is nowhere near as difficult as heroin addiction but it's rough. On top of that i quit drinking, smoking cigarettes and weed and taking mdma and ecstacy. all at the same time. Was it the hardest thing ive done in my life? absolutely. did it hurt? hell yea. and was my life shite for a good 6 months? you betcha. is my life a million times better now that i did it? you take that guess. I friggin love my life now and it took HARD WORK AND DETERMINATION. "it's okay, it's a disease and its not your fault that you can't get over the addiction" is ENABLING!!! use tough love my friends..... what ever happened to discipline? I thank the Lord all the time for getting me through those dark months so I could be here, now! Clean for 4 years and loving every minute of it. I will never go back because I know if I choose to take back all that hard work, I may never be able to get out of it again because of a CHOICE I MADE!

Jackie's picture


Cocaine has no withdrawl symptoms. You can just stop, have to side effects from not using it. It is definately not the same as Heroin addiction. Or alcolohism. There are no treatment programs for cocaine, it is a very easy drug to stop using. So, you cannot compare that to a real drug addict, one who has physical withdrawls that can be life threatening when stopping

bob mendel's picture


Just read your blog on cocaine from 3/17/12 and could not agree more!!! yes I had a cocaine problrm for about 4 months, almost 5 yrs ago. have been clean ,sober and still go to meetings because I am mandated by my board. I have a lot of resentment about the whole"treatment" program, 90 days for 30,000 dollars for first time offense. Seems to me the boards and insurance companies and treatment centers are all in the same crooked bed together. how can everyone with "the disease' of addiction all need the exact same treatment as long as you have plenty of insurance money, but let the money run out and you are magically released from the treatment center. I am grateful for my recovery ,but could my acting out and irresponsible, compulsive behavior not just be what it is . I think we put the label of addiction on everyone and if it sticks, so be it. Am just resentful, but yes I have had no problem quitting from day one and recognize it was just acting out. Thanks for sharing

Craig Kovalcik's picture

It is not a disease

I am on chemo for multiple myeloma and dialysis for kidney failure. I personally take it as an insult when people with addictions also tell me that they have a disease. I hear them say that they have been in "Recovery" for so many years. People who have legitimate diseases don't seem to associate the word "Recovery" into their vocabulary. We are too busy just trying to stay alive. The people I know with so called addiction diseases don't have to see their doctor on a weekly basis to check on their GFR and BUN levels. I suggest anyone who claims that Addiction is a disease go to their regional cancer center or dialysis center and look at all the patients there and say "Hey, look at me! I have a disease too!"

I know of two people who claimed their addiction was a disease who have now been dealt the unfortunate hand of dealing with cancer, a real disease, and they both tell me that now they know what a real disease feels like and it's nothing like addiction.

Norma's picture

it is not a disease??????

First, let me say that I feel sorrow for what you are going through, I don't want to diminish that at all, but I hope that you can open your mind to some possibilities:

Just like you have no idea why your body developed this disease, the addict also doesn't understand why their body "their brain" reacts differently to chemicals that have not effect on others. You don't mention it, but it is very likely that you have had to change chemo drugs because they were not working best in your body. If not, I am sure that people in this position wonder why one drug works for some and for others it has little effect.

Drug addiction, if not treated, is just as fatal as your disease is if not treated. People die of alcohol related illnesses and drug overdose is way too common, and is actually more common in prescription drugs now.

I am sure because of your disease you are behaving differently that you did before you knew you had it, we too as addicts were behaving differently before we knew we had a disease.

Just as your disease started with one cell behaving differently, the addict's disease did the same.
The neurotransmitters released when certain substances were taken by the addict caused a pleasurable sensation in certain areas of the brain, this happens even in non-addicts. Many times the "addict" realizes that this can take away the pain that seems unmanageable. That pain can be any one of our emotions, for some it is a tragedy, for others they experiment in an effort to fit in with "any crowd". For some it may be the pain of losing someone they love or just difficulty in their day to day life. Unfortunately, way to many addicts are suffering from the pain they endured as children. These are illness of our emotions, and they cannot be detected easily by any medical profession. Even though you have a different perspective, you too are using drugs to try and take away this illness that you suffer. Please don't misunderstand me, YOU have to do this to survive and you MUST do this, and I commend you for fighting like you are. It takes courage.

You are aware of this disease in your body daily and you must get daily for treatments and doctor visits and it this is such a hassle.
I know that you have the perspective that addiction is easy to beat--- just don't take the drugs, right? It is all about taking drugs/alcohol to you. For the addict it is about the behavior that caused us to become addicted in the first place. Many times when people get clean and get into a recovery program like me, they start to realize that their problem has very little to do with actually using substances. It becomes about whom they were before they were addicted and then trying to understand their behavior and their choices once they did. I can guarantee you that 95% of recovering addicts do not want to use substances, and they cannot understand the drive that they feel to use them. It is a baffling disease of the brain. I suppose that one could escape this disease of addiction if they never ever took any substance in their life, but many times in drug addiction it began with a medically necessary use, and with alcohol it began with just a few beers socially. For most addicts to truly be successful in their "recovery" or maybe just to enjoy a new way of living says it better, they must attend AA/NA meetings for the rest of their life. Some attend daily. It baffles my mind when I hear someone at a meeting say they have been coming to meetings for 30 years or more. I want my disease of addiction to go away, but it won’t. Even though I don't use, daily I battle with what is going on in my mind. The desire to take substances has gone, but the bad behavioral tendencies are still there. It is really a mental disease. Today, I fight the urge to judge, get angry; make bad choices and all the things that deter me from being a better person than I used to be.

For your disease, you must use the drugs to survive. For the addict, they must NOT use the drugs to survive.
You had to understand the behavior in your body to understand that you have to make the choice to take chemotherapy to
survive. Once the addict realizes that their use is about their behavioral tendencies, they too realize that to survive they cannot
use substances because clouding our brain with chemicals that hurt us will kill us.

Finally, life is not a contest of who has the worst situation, but if we must choose, then you DO have the worst situation. I suppose everyone’s life is really about choices and addicts seem to be at the head of the game when it comes to making bad choices.
Addicts suffer greatly, but maybe in a different way. We are all human beings and for me I believe that we are all created by the same God. Suffering is human, but spiritually leads the way to a better existence. I am sure you have pulled your strength from someone or something to battle your suffering. The addict in “true" Recovery becomes a more spiritually person with a greater love for all mankind, regardless of their suffering. We try not to focus on our pain, but look for greater meaning to our life.

People in "Recovery" are trying to stay alive too, but in a different way than you.

I truly wish you success in your treatment and please don't ever lose hope, but we must also realize that sometimes our lives are meaningful just because of the situation we are in. I know you can be of great comfort to others.

Carlos Ortega's picture


I am very sorry to hear that you are on chemo. I do sincerely hope a recovery is in your cards, as it has been for many cancer patients throughout history. You are angry and bitter, or at the very least, come across that way. For you to imply that cancer patients have never recovered is folly. For you to say that drug addiction is not a disease, and that we are not busy trying to stay alive is absurd. You have absolutely no clue what you are talking about, but as i stated earlier, you obviously are upset and bitter to make such a harsh statement against millions of drug addicts all over the world that have that disease. That last statement you mentioned regarding those two friends who now have cancer is unfortunate. I hope they RECOVER

Craig Kovalcik's picture

I do have a clue as to what I

I do have a clue as to what I am talking about and I am offended by you saying that I don't. Sure some cancer patients survive but a lot don't and you can't treat cancer or any other real diseases with Dialetical Behavioral Therapy or exploring how someone can reconnect with their inner child to explore why they have turned to substances to deal with life's problems. Group therapy just doesn't work when it comes to treating real diseases. Changing the moment, grounding yourself and everything else that is taught in group and individual sessions doesn't do anything for people who have real diseases. I guess the best we can do is agree to disagree but I urge you to ask anyone who is dealing with a real physical ailment how they are dealing with it in comparision to someone who just has to try to resist the urge to drink or smoke. By the way one of the friends did not recover as he succumbed to his cancer on 2/11. And yes, I do get offended when people compare their addiction to me and those I know. Addiction doesn't cause you to have daily lab work done or see if your GFR is below 10 and if your lambda light chains are between 2.5 and 3.1. Group therapy just doesn't work for that.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Side note

As a side note; I would go not further than to consider problem drug use a socially unacceptable behavioral state. Just as there are negative "addictions", there are positive "addictions" as well. The trick is pursuing the least detrimental and most beneficial indulgence or vice.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Addiction is certainly not an illness.

Before any more people try to debate this, I suggest they learn what they're talking about. As someone who has studied this myself for several years, I must say, Craig is absolutely right. The fact that there is an underlying pathology which contributes to the habitual and problematic use of drugs does not make this behavior a disease. In fact, the mechanisms underlying this drug related psychodepence are interchangeable with those underlying survival-related behaviors (love, sex, eating) as well as just about every non-essential hedonistic behavioral vice one could imagine. Most people could say they have continued eating too much of their favorite food while knowing it wasn't good for them.. The "base-brain" or instinctual pathology of addiction mediates nothing more than a sense of "wanting" - This wiring of the brain to crave drugs (as opposed to anything else) is incapable of bypassing the rational higher brain (not matter how great of an influential factor the craving may be on one's logic), it is also certainly not capable of bypassing ones motor control and causing one to act involuntarily. The disease hypothesis of addiction originated with the superstitious & metaphysical notions of demonology and voodoo. Jacob Sullum refers to this as "voodoo pharmacology". There is in fact no empirical evidence to support that addiction or its pathology is a "disease"; as this pathology is present across the entire spectrum of behaviors in everyone - it is simply the sociological level of acceptance for a particular behavior which determines what we consider a "disease" vs a hobby, passion, indulgence or interest. For every "expert" supporting the "disease" hypothesis, there are 2 just as qualified (perhaps more-so) physicians, researchers, etc, who will attest to the fact that it is NOT a disease. The disease of addiction has simply been a tool which has built a multi-billion dollar industry of quack medicine, and reinforced the mindless support for US drug laws.

To the "recovering addict" or 12-stepper, I reccommend you study neuropsychiatry and the sociology of drug use a bit further. Also read the works of Stanton Peele and Jeff Shaler, both distinguished experts in the field. By convincing drug users through treatment that they are "powerless" to moderate their behavior, the phony addiction "treatment" industry has created a self fulfilling prophecy.

Learn a bit more here:

Justin's picture


To Craig, I only know from what I have read about Multiple Myeloma. And thats, that its no joke. Especially if your the 20% that develops kidney failure from it. I commend you and the hard work that it takes to keep up with treatment. And my post is in no way trying to take anything away from that. My post is designed to not take anything from anyone. Which I feel that you and a few other have done.
People never cease to amaze me. Why the need for an old fashioned pissing contest at this point boggles me. This is equivalent to a race-car driver that brags "my cars faster than yours, so that means your car's not a race-car." Or a heavy-metal band that insists "my metal is heavier than yours, therefore it must not be rock." Or maybe its the recovering addict that boasts "I used to drink a 1/5 a night while snorting an eight-ball up each nostril at the same time! And you call yourself an addict!"
It seems your instantly taking offense that people are trying to equate with your situation. Or worse, trying to relate.... And whats so bad about that? Answer is: There are JACKASSES who do that, who have no idea how to keep it in context. But I do, so I'll throw in my two cents. After reading a post by you. Followed by an anonymous visitor that arrogantly started the post out "Before any more people TRY to debate this, I suggest they learn what they're talking about."

Isn't anyone humble anymore?

I think to get my point across "disease" needs to be defined. Disease: any deviation from or interruption of the normal structure or function of any body part, organ, or system that is manifested by a characteristic set of symptoms and signs and whose etiology, pathology, and prognosis may be known or unknown. In humans, "disease" is often used more broadly to refer to any condition that causes pain, suffering, dysfunction, social problems, and/or death to the person afflicted.

This is more aimed at: Guest "addiction certainly is not an illness"
Next maybe we should go ahead and list some known diseases out there: Arthritis, Hepatitis A, B, C, Multiple Sclerosis, Acne, Vertigo, Eczema, Crohn's Disease, Cancer, Heart Diseases/Conditions, Alzheimer's, Chickenpox, Chlamydia, Drug/Alcohol addiction etc. etc. By no means am I trying to make light of craig's current situation. I'm just aiming at what I feel is incorrect. Because by definition, all of these can be defined as a "Disease". So lets just get it on the table and call a spade a spade. It seems YOU feel that it's justifiable to say its a "legitimate disease" if it terminates your life within a year? Or relatively soon. Going further to imply that anything less than this is a "so called disease" or worse a "choice". I know that this is a debate that has been going back and forth between professionals for decades. And even with modern technology that paints a clear picture of this debate, for many people there is still no agreeable middle ground. All the above disease's have a cause and effect that require some sort of treatment. Regardless of the path that led them there. Craig spoke about his disease but didn't elaborate any thoughts on how it was he got to this point. If drugs/alcohol is a debate about choice and that its not an illness. Then so many other diseases could be about choice as well. Anyone of the STD's are diseases right? Therefore, its safe to say, that its a result of a poor choice in sexual partners. But there diseases or illnesses, Right? Or how about the farmer or mechanic that now has cancer cause of soil or solvent chemicals they had handled their whole lives? Lets call that a poor choice too. Because its labeled right on the 55 gallon drum. Man! These don't sound like diseases at all. More like bad choices. I realize this is becoming redundant. And this could go on and on about the choices we make. After all, the choices we make are all based on the balances of our neurotransmitters transmitting a nerve impulses across a synapse. If we could consciously control these balances then therapist would be out of a job. And we wouldn't have multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies rapping us. Maybe people think these companies are a hoax...And maybe we could just go back to the turn of the 20th century and kickstart a nationwide sanitarium program to figure out why all the crazy people are making such bad choices. But we're not gonna do that cause I'm sure that we can all agree that todays medication (while they may not be perfected) really help in the field of neuroscience. If anyone has a relative that suffers from any mental disorders I'm sure you agree on how well they do with than without. Point being, its common knowledge that common street drugs and alcohol affects the balances of some of our most dominant neurotransmitters making the users brain chemistry become dependent on them. Much in the same way the little pills from our corporate pharmaceutical companies do. So to make a statement not recognizing addiction as an illness would be for lack of better words nieve. Your telling people to do their homework....maybe you should do yours. Cause addiction is the underlying symptom of a problem. Unless mental illness isn't an illness either. Maybe I didn't get the memo. Open to any feedback.

lynn Roby's picture

addiction: A Brain Disease

Do you really think someone would purposefully wake up one day and say " I think i'll become addicted to drugs and make my life a living hell as well as the lives of the people I love. Are you kidding me! I have been in recovery from alcoholism and prescription drugs for 30 years now, and I still clearly remember the hell I went through in my addiction. Thank God for The folks at the treatment center and the AA program for helping me realize that I had a disease and i was not a bad person.During my addiction i used to pray i would not wake up and feel disappointed when i did.I was Catholic married and had 4 beautiful son's I adored. I can still see the sad and hurt look on my little boy's faces when I would break promises I so intended to keep. I wish the pain of addiction on no-one, but I do wish those who do not understand addiction would take the time to learn abbot this debilitating disease. The only disease we are judged and penalized for having. I have spent many years since my recovery began trying to teach other's about this disease and to assist them in their efforts of the journey into recovery, no matter how frightening it may be. Addiction is a brain disease and it is not a disgrace!

PaRC's picture

The Brain and Addiction

Nicole- Thanks for your post. I work at PaRC aka Memorial Hermann in Houston. We have a large number of docs that work on our addiction unit that would also say that addiction is a disease that centers in the mind. We also take pride in having evidence based practices and interventions for our patients. Thanks again for your post.

Serendip Visitor's picture

unless you have been

unless you have been addicted to drugs you have no clue how hard it is to stop. I have a good life, people who love me, wife, kids, house job, good parents and family. I battled a nasty little oxycontin habit and at its worst i was taking 200-240mgs a day up the nose for about a year, i came off the drugs cold turkey (NOT THE FIRST TIME TRYING)and it was the only time i ever wanted to kill myself. I was hopeless, i thought i would never be able to go another minute feeling the way i was feeling. i didnt sleep more than 1-2 hours a night for two months, didnt eat for weeks, and was mean and bitter. it was like i had the devil in me and was going through an excorism.....this is why people relapse and turn back to drugs...its a vicious cycle and i knew if i just had some oxy i would feel great again....i wound up checking into a rehab and working a 12 step program...i needed help and support to go through it, you cant do it alone and its not just will power, the addicted person needs to learn how to live life again (without drugs)they need to relearn everything they do and everything they are needs to be rewired without drugs...anybody that says just stop whats the matter with you is totally out of touch, and thats understandable....but dont act like you know cause trust me you dont...and the crazy thing is most addicts are great people...the drugs just turn them into someone else

Mademan's picture

You people that are on the

You people that are on the stuff just
Don't get it do you
Is cigarette smoking a desease?
You make the choce to smoke or not to smoke
Same as you make the choice to stick
A needle in you're arm
Then you like what it feels like so you
Continue with you're thing. So just like cigarettes if you want to smoke you smoke if you want to quit you quit
You have to want too
So stop crybaby krap and woe is me bullkrap
You can't quit cause you don't want too

I will get all kinds of crybaby responses
But the ones that respond are obviously week
Minded people that have no strength of mind
I am leaving the site and will go on to the next

So by by you crybabies

Jackie's picture

Small Minded

You are a small minded person. Maybe if you did some research into the DISEASE of addiction you would realize how idiotic you sound. Get your facts straight before you talk about a subject you have no knowledge. And for your information, I have NEVER used drugs in my life!

Serendip Visitor's picture

*Disease *your *choice *to

*Disease *your *choice *to *weak *bye bye. If you want people to take you seriously, learn to spell.

anonymus's picture



Sober With Open Arms's picture

I've never done a drug,

I've never done a drug, smoked a cigarette, or consumed an alcoholic beverage in my life, and I am horrified by your crass ignorance. I pray for those suffering, and hope that fools like yourself shut your mouthes and act less like some narrow-minded jackass.
And, for what it's worth, you used the wrong 'bye'.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Respectfully Intrigued.

I would like to say that your kickass, for saying what you said. Im a 19 year old female. Im a 4.0 student, a model and have a full time job, sadly I am also a heroin addict. People judged but dont understand. Its not like smokeing a ciggereate, the detox is like dying. You vomit, you cant sleep your anxious you dont want to eat, and what do you do when you dont feel good? you take what will make you feel better right? asprin dont fix what herion does to you, only heroin does. Am I proud? NO I wish I would have never done it. But sadly I do. Judge if you want, but when you have one finger pointing at someone you have 3 more pointing back at you. think about it.

Serendip Visitor's picture

I'm in the same boat as you

I'm in the same boat as you sweetie! I'm 21 and I'm a 7.0 student. That's what we are marked out of at my university. Anyway. I have been an amphetamine addict since I was 14yo. Not as bad as I used to be but I still relapse occasionally. Like today. :/

Serendip Visitor's picture


Aside saying drug addiction is horrible then why taking drugs in the first place? If a person chose to refuse then it wouldn't be that bad right?

D. Dawes's picture

Drug addiction is a terrible

Drug addiction is a terrible illness that affects the brain but I disagree with the idea that it is a brain disease. Constant use of drugs like cocaine, heroin, and so on cause monstrous releases of dopamine which in turn changes the brains chemistry see here . There are many solutions that enable addicts and alcoholics to get sober. All of which include finding a "bottom" (becoming emotionally bankrupt)but not all require a stint in the pokey. Addicts can get help from many places such as 12 step meetings, , therapy and many other options. I myself am sober through a 12 step program and I am truly grateful for what I have found I hope other addicts and alcoholics can find what I have found.

criskross's picture

If I can Quit so can You

I used crack for over 10 years. Not untill I lost my job home family friends and almost ended my own life was I able to quit. But the thing is I did manage to stop and I am trying to recover and you can too. I did hit a sort of bottom but it was the realization that tonight I was going to end my life that finally helped me get my head right. I go to N/A meetings by choice so I never will forget what I had become and to help improve my life now as I recover. Depression played a huge roll in my addiction so I am being treated for that. I lost everything and facing the fact that I must start all over is not easy. The best way to not get addicted is to not try it in the first place.

Serendip Visitor joy's picture

I do so understand. I was

I do so understand. I was giving up everything in my life for crack. Family, chidren, home, all my possessions. Getting introuble with the law was no biggy either. In the past 9years Ive had 2 relapses and those were just in the past 2. I have done this thing on my own after rehab and it has been hard. I cant stand the stuff, then it seems just out of the blue something will happen and there I go again. Ive been with my husband now for nearly 17 years and he has stuck by me even fighting to keep our son fromm the state,not to mention my 1st 3 was taken within my first marraige. I never want to see the stuff again, I know it would finalize the end of my marraige. I go to school full time, work around the clock and hardly even have time for anything, so why is it then I would go for so long and still get stupid at times. My life is full and good.:(

Joey Loftis's picture

Drug Addiction

I was addicted to crystal meth primarily for 10 years. The first couple of years was fun, but then when I wanted off, I had no power to stop! This drug completely ruined my life, and stripped me of everything that I loved. It caused me to neglect my children, and also to hurt my family and friends deeply. I hated the person that I had become, but saw no way out. Having tried everything to quit, I just accepted the fact that I would die an addicted, miserable wretch. When it seemed that I was as low as I could get, someone began talking with me about a person who could help me. A person who's love for me never changed, since I had become such a horrible person. I was introduced to a man named Jesus. This man, being God, took on Himself the form of a man, and came to this world and died a horrific death on a cross of shame, to pay the penalty for my awful sin, and to give me power over the dominion of addiction and sin in my life. When I realized that what Jesus did on that cross was for me personally, and that He was willing to save my soul from Hell, and give me abundant life on this earth, I gladly turned my life over to Him, trusting Him with my soul in eternity, and my life here on earth. The Lord Jesus completely changed my life, immediately! I have been drug free for 5 years now, and I can assure anyone who is looking for the answer, it can be found in the Person of Christ! Look to Him, call upon Him, trust Him, and He will do in your life what you have been trying to do for years!

Mademan's picture

Amen my friend people want to

Amen my friend people want to blame it on desease
And use it as an exuse
Is smoking a desease or going for krispy cream donuts
Every morning and eating a dozen
I I can do all thing thru JESUS CHRIST
Who strengthens me
It not a desease it's called liking it too much

Later brother
He who is in me is greater than he who is in the
Most people on the site have no idea what that means


Lynnette Adams's picture

Drug Addiction: A Brain Disease

Writting a paper about my addiction; went through for about 20 years. I prayed and cried , cried and prayed for many years wanting to stop. Did not know how to stop; I was a firm beliver that when God got ready for me to stop BAM it would happen. I lost all my faith waiting on God to help me. I knew He could if he wanted to , so I prayed and I prayed, I beged and I beged God to help me.After all had fail all I had was hope left, I believed it would happen one day. I ended up going to jail on a drug charge; that is the best thing that could have happen to me. Now let me make it clear that was not the first time,but it was the last time. I prayed God don't let me come out the same way that I came in and I begin to desire him more than the drug. When I came out that was in the year 2000 I have been clean every since.Unlike all the other times that I quite, I don't have the urage and I don't do meetings.

Adam M.'s picture

Addiction a logical explanation.

Because diseases kill people
they need something to classify it as cause of death
and since a high percentage of people die from drug abuse the numbers have to be explained.

Joshua M's picture

Surrender to WIN

My name is Joshua I am 21 years old and i am a recovering heroin addict, I have 1 year clean as of yesterday. I can assure you that i didnt get clean on my own. If you read the essay at the top of the page it explains addiction but it dosent put you in the shoes of the actual addict. Addiction is the impulse to do things to make you feel good. Take the drugs away you find something else to subtitute it. If you have a problem with drugs you need to allow people to help you and you need to stop fighting and thinking you can do it alone. the impulsive decision making will never cease but awarness allows you to prevent it. 12 step meetings give people who are addicted a place to go where other people who are recovering from this DISEASE help you to recover also. If you Question yourself that means you dont know the answers, question someone who does know.

nigel's picture

addiction surely not a disease

May i simply suggest allen Carrs only way to quit smoking permently is an excellent book to read and bust the illussion open on addiction. Easy to stop anything once you understand the true nature of trhe beast.

Anonymous's picture



Hearbroken's picture

I had my world turned upside

I had my world turned upside down by a secret drug addict; until the secret unraveled out of control. It must be hard living a double life. I don't believe any of this BS. I went to Alanon; I have read and learned and tried to adopt disease as the answer. My drug addict left me with 3 babies. Ruined my career, LIED STOLE CHEATED ABANDONED GROSS NEGLECT and still manipulated all they way to the bank. Went to rehab 3 times and was given chance after chance to use the tools and moral support for problem solving, be held accountable and be responsible. At the end of this heartbrake & job loss and total emotional disaster is one women and 3 healthy small kids. A man had the Dream is the palm of his hands; then had it handed back to him after he seduced his way through rehab 3 times and still continued on like a freak. At the end of the day at some point it is just a choice; do you wanna get high? Some idiots just like being high b/c it's easy and on losers! I will give you so called addicts props though; you all can clean up really nice and put on a good show; its keeps us 'heart filled with love' types stringing along. Until one day you dope heads just up & leave for good. Do us all a favor get the hell outa here & take your turmoil somewhere else. Jump off a cliff, OD, commit your crazy a** - whatever you want; just leave us alone.

Serendip Visitor's picture

family recovery

I have experienced a similar experience as yours - my spouse got addicted to Oxycontin and crack secretly until it was out of control and I found out on your own. Addicts will do anything to get their high, and it's that "anything" (lying to you, stealing from you, never being home to help with the kids, bringing unknown new friends at home, changing personality to the like of a teenage party-er, mood swings, having ceisures, being totally 100% unreliable for anything, your life becoming hellish for the sake of his secret high, etc...) is what makes it very painful. Also, the fact that it was a secret indicates that somehow the addict knew you would never approve the lifestyle to begin with, and yet they still went on to take that 1st hit, that 1st pill, that would later on turn them into a full blown addict: THAT is also VERY painful. It is VERY hurtful to have someone do those things to you, especially the one person you had choosen to spend the rest of you life with, the one person you built a life with, made dreams for the future, laughed with, shared nice memories with, confided in, and though was your very best friend. It is ALSO VERY hurtful to see the loved one do that destruction to themselves. It's very hurtful to see your child loose their father (in my case). Loosing a spouse to a secret addiction is like finding out all of a sudden that he is dead: you had no say in it and never will, he is gone ... in the hellish depth of Mr./Ms. Drug. There is lots of grieving to do. You grieve for the life that should have happened, for the kids parental love that will never be given to them, for the addict himself, and for yourself who has lost a part of itself in all that. It's hard to understand how you failed to choose a good life partner, a good father. It's hard on a lot of aspects of life. You are going through an angry phase, and that is totally normal, you will go through many phases of grief, but one thing you should know: you are not alone, and think of yourself and your babies first and foremost, that is all you can do.

Serendip Visitor's picture


You are wrong. I am sorry this happened to you though. Addiction is a disease and many people suffer with it. To tell people to jump off a cliff that suffer with this is no better than Hitler wanting to kill off all the people with disabilities. Be very careful thinking like this can lead to the eugenics movement all over again. Instead try to understand and help people with this instead of thinking your a beteer person because you don't have this disease.

Serendip Visitor's picture

move on with your life

i am going through the same situation that you were once in and i have to say you are a very bitter person. you dont seem to understand biology or genetics. the man has a disease and you hope he ods and dies. i hope for recovery and survival. i understand he is an addict and i do not place all my hopes and dreams in his hands because i am my own person with my own life that does not involve prescription pills. the only way to live this life that has been forced on people who love an addict is to know who you are and what you will accept. i try everyday to be an example that is worth following. if he doesnt take my lead thats on him. i will always love him and never wish him to die or od or wind up in a gutter or any other evil end. people who love an addict need love and understanding in their own heart not bitterness and hate. we need help to understand and recover just as badly as the addicts themselves.

Carly's picture

Everyone has a different trail

I just found out that my son is addicted to Herion. He has been and continues to be a very good boy, one that a mother is very proud of. So we were really suprised when we found out that he was using. Our little family had an intervention for him. I can remember telling him that "this is the last time that you will use Herion". Wow, that was several months ago and it feels like almost a lifetime ago. I have learned so much about the addiction, and in my learning I realize that I really don't know any thing about it. There is not all that much about it on the computer. I was looking to see what I could learn about it, and was dissapointed when I really haven't found all that much. My husband and I are reading "The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure" by Chris Prentiss. This is the first time in months that I have felt like there really is a light at the end of this tunnel that we have found out selves in. He says in his book that there is a way to end relapse and how to end suffering. I am not sure if that is true because we are still reading the book, but I feel like that it is true. (and am praying that it's true)

I believe that everyone will find their own trail to the end of their tunnel. Alanon states that once an addict always an addict, and that scares me to death. I don't want my son to always be an addict, I don't to want to wake up one morning and find that he is using again.

So if anyone out there can give me some place that I can find more inforamtion so I can understand what is going on and how to help, if I can. I would be so pleased to read the information that you would send my way.

I have never been addicted to drugs, but I am over weight and consider myself addicted to chocolate. I know that is not even in the same ball park, but that is one of the problems that is in my life.

I thank you in advance for as much help as you all can give me.