The addiction paradox | Science News



Support credible science journalism.

Subscribe to Science News today.


The addiction paradox

Drug dependence has two faces — as a chronic disease and a temporary failure to cope

2:30pm, March 7, 2014

Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s February death from a drug overdose triggered media reports blaming the terrible disease of addiction for claiming another life. But calling addiction a “disease” may be misguided, according to an alternative view with some scientific basis. Most people who are addicted to cigarette smoking, alcohol or other drugs manage to quit, usually on their own, after experiencing major attitude adjustments. Although relapses occur, successes ultimately outnumber fatalities. People can permanently walk away from addiction.

Evidence that addiction is a solvable coping problem rather than a chronic, recurring disease seems like encouraging news. But it’s highly controversial. Neuroscientists and many clinicians regard drug addictions as brain illnesses best vanquished with the help of medications that fight cravings and withdrawal. From this perspective, drug-induced brain changes increase a person’s thirst for artificial highs

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from this issue of Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content