Addiction: Current Criticism of the Brain Disease Paradigm

Rachel Hammer, Molly Dingel, Jenny Ostergren, Brad Partridge, Jennifer McCormick, Barbara A. Koenig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


To deepen understanding of efforts to consider addiction a "brain disease," we review critical appraisals of the disease model in conjunction with responses from in-depth semistructured stakeholder interviews with (1) patients in treatment for addiction and (2) addiction scientists. Sixty-three patients (from five alcohol and/or nicotine treatment centers in the Midwest) and 20 addiction scientists (representing genetic, molecular, behavioral, and epidemiologic research) were asked to describe their understanding of addiction, including whether they considered addiction to be a disease. To examine the NIDA brain disease paradigm, our approach includes a review of current criticism from the literature, enhanced by the voices of key stakeholders. Many argue that framing addiction as a disease will enhance therapeutic outcomes and allay moral stigma. We conclude that it is not necessary, and may be harmful, to frame addiction as a disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-32
Number of pages6
JournalAJOB Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • addiction
  • language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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