Sigma Xi Publications



American Scientist

The Misperception of Addiction: Health professionals treat substance abuse as a brain disease. But that's not what the research shows.

The idea that addiction is a brain disease had become prominent among neuroscientists by the 1990s. However, despite decades of research, the theory lacks evidence to support it, contend Marc Grifell and Carl L. Hart in “Is Drug Addiction a Brain Disease?” Although drug use both influences and is influenced by the brain, substance abuse is not a brain disease that responds to pharmaceutical treatments in the ways that, for example, Huntington’s or Parkinson’s diseases are. This myopic approach, they assert, which is based on intuition and political necessity more than on clinical results, overlooks socioeconomic and societal factors in research, clinical practice, and policy, despite their obvious importance. This paradigm also contributes to a misguided focus on punitive law enforcement strategies and on treating an individual’s brain. (Cover illustration by Boris Séméniako/www.borissemeniako.fr.)

May–June 2018

Sigma Xi Publications