Blog Post

94 Addiction Experts Agree: Addiction is More Than a Brain Disease

Amanda Reiman

Recently, an article in Nature, a weekly international science journal, created quite a stir in the addiction community. The article framed addiction as a brain disease.

In response, 94 academics, scientists and policy experts from around the world signed onto a letter published in Nature, refuting that claim. The original article, Europe’s policy-makers must not buy animal-rights activists’ arguments that addiction is a social, rather than a medical, problem, argues that animal rights activists are falsely making the claim that animal model research on addiction is not sufficient, given the social nature of addiction, therefore using animals in this way is cruel.

“Drug addiction is a disease.” The article began. Later in the article it states, “None of that is particularly controversial, at least among scientists”.

However, I joined at least 94 scientists who took issue with this statement and drafted the letter published in the most recent edition of Nature, including neuroscientist, Carl Hart from Columbia University, and Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

The letter states, “Substance abuse cannot be divided from its social, psychological, cultural, political, legal and environmental contexts: It is not simply a consequence of brain malfunction.

“The many facets of addiction are too complex to be fought on a medical research front alone.”

The letter was spearheaded by Dr. Derek Heim from Edge Hill University in the UK, and included signatories from sixteen countries and nine U.S. states.

Although research supports social, psychological, cultural and economic aspects of addiction, funding is increasingly going to pharmaceutical treatments, raising concern for those in the field who study this problem.

Amanda Reiman, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance and one of the signatories of the letter to Nature.

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