Medical Models of Addiction

In Kincaid Ross (ed.), What is Addiction? (2010)
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Abstract

Biomedical science has been remarkably successful in explaining illness by categorizing diseases and then by identifying localizable lesions such as a virus and neoplasm in the body that cause those diseases. Not surprisingly, researchers have aspired to apply this powerful paradigm to addiction. So, for example, in a review of the neuroscience of addiction literature, Hyman and Malenka (2001, p. 695) acknowledge a general consensus among addiction researchers that “[a]ddiction can appropriately be considered as a chronic medical illness.” Like other diseases, “Once addiction has taken hold, it tends to follow a chronic course.” (Koob and La Moal 2006, p. ?). Working from this perspective, much effort has gone into characterizing the symptomology of addiction and the brain changes that underlie them. Evidence for involvement of dopamine transmission changes in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and nucleus accumbens (NAc) have received the greatest attention. Kauer and Malenka (2007, p. 844) put it well: “drugs of abuse can co-opt synaptic plasticity mechanisms in brain circuits involved in reinforcement and reward processing”. Our goal in this chapter to provide an explicit description of the assumptions of medical models, the different forms they may take, and the challenges they face in providing explanations with solid evidence of addiction. <br>.

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Jacqueline Anne Sullivan
University of Western Ontario

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