Views of Addiction Neuroscientists and Clinicians on the Clinical Impact of a 'Brain Disease Model of Addiction'

Neuroethics 7 (1):19-27 (2014)

Abstract

Addiction is increasingly described as a “chronic and relapsing brain disease”. The potential impact of the brain disease model on the treatment of addiction or addicted individuals’ treatment behaviour remains uncertain. We conducted a qualitative study to examine: (i) the extent to which leading Australian addiction neuroscientists and clinicians accept the brain disease view of addiction; and (ii) their views on the likely impacts of this view on addicted individuals’ beliefs and behaviour. Thirty-one Australian addiction neuroscientists and clinicians (10 females and 21 males; 16 with clinical experience and 15 with no clinical experience) took part in 1 h semi-structured interviews. Most addiction neuroscientists and clinicians did not uncritically support the use of brain disease model of addiction. Most were cautious about the potential for adverse impacts on individuals’ recovery and motivation to enter treatment. While some recognised the possibility that the brain disease model of addiction may provide a rationale for addicted persons to seek treatment and motivate behaviour change, Australian addiction neuroscientist and clinicians do not assume that messages about “diseased brains” will always lead to increased treatment-seeking and reduced drug use. Research is needed on how neuroscience research could be used in ways that optimise positive outcomes for addicted persons

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Author Profiles

Adrian Carter
Monash University
Stephanie Bell
University of Glasgow
Wayne Hall
State University of New York (SUNY)

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