The disease theory of addiction, which has always been with us in one form or another, now boasts Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), as its principal representative. Volkow holds worldwide sway with her approach, which focuses exclusively on neuroscience and the brain and which is increasingly seen as the key to eliminating addiction. “Groundbreaking discoveries about the brain have revolutionized our understanding of drug addiction, enabling us to respond effectively to the problem,” trumpets the White House website, beneath a video of Volkow proselytizing her theory. Yet there are no diagnoses or treatments based on neuroscientific research pegged to the brain scans so avidly pursued and enthusiastically presented by Volkow and her school. We are told to be patient because the new scientific paradigm must mature before it produces real-life applications. Until then, we have a glut of super-high-tech pictures of the living brain to distract us. They distract us above all from the major truth revealed by addiction epidemiology: Most people overcome alcoholism and drug addiction on their own. Finally, belief in the disease theory—to the extent that it persuades you of your powerlessness to control your substance use—has been shown to increase relapse and diminish the prospects for recovery.
Via Julian Buchanan