Alva Noe, philosopher, UC Berkeley
From an old post. All the talk of the internet and addiction reminded me of his commentary.
Speaking with all the expertise of a man with a psych undergrad degree, I’m actually surprised it’s taken us this long. (And tumblr should have its own sub-category!)
Actually, the debate over including it is rather interesting and has much to do with how we define illness in the first place. (Consider this: homosexuality used to be listed as an ‘illness’.) It also has a bit to do with how we think about addictions and compulsions in general.
All in all, a pretty interesting case study.
In 30 states, unintentional overdoses have surpassed motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of unintended death.
In the year 2010, 7 people died every day in Florida from prescription drug overdoses.
A police officer guards a stash of fake merchandise in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, a smuggler-ridden border town.
Credit: Jorge Saenz/AP
Anybody who’s smoked marijuana knows about “the munchies,” that desire to eat everything within reach. But a study from France has found that, surprisingly, pot smokers are actually less likely than non-smokers to pack on weight.
“There’s no evidence that repeated marijuana use can increase body weight,” said Vincenzo Di Marzo, professor at the Institute of Biomolecular Chemistry in Pozzuoli, Italy.
Go ahead and rejoice.
Is addiction simply a disease of the brain? Probably not. Addiction is more likely a disease of the mind, behavior, as well as neurotransmitters and neural networks. I have always been an advocate of a disease model, even though you can’t contract addiction (although even this is debatable as it can be learned). I am open for a loose application of the disease model, as personal choice does play a role in addiction. Even with high predisposition to alcoholism, a person may never be a addict if they never drink a drop of alcohol. Obviously, addiction is extremely complex and has systemic roots, biological predispositions, and psychological impairments.
Very interesting article in response to the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s (ASAM) statement that addiction is a disease of the brain.
Addiction has been moralized, medicalized, politicized, and criminalized.
Gene Heyman notes in his excellent book on addiction — that there are only 20 or so distinct activities and substances that produce addiction.
If you feed an electrical wire through a rat’s skull and onto to a short dopamine release circuit that connects the VTA (ventral tegmental area) and the nucleus accumbens, and if you attach that wire to a lever-press, the rat will self-stimulate — press the lever to produce the increase in dopamine — and it will do so basically foreover, forgoing food, sex, water and exercise.
All addictive drugs and activities elevate the dopamine release system. Such activation, we may say, is a necessary condition of addiction. But it is very doubtful that it is sufficient. Neuroscientists refer to the system in question as the “reward-reinforcement pathway” precisely because all rewarding activities, including nonaddictive ones like reading the comics on sunday morning or fixing the leaky pipe in the basement, modulate its activity.
…we haven’t discovered, in the reward reinforcement system, a neurochemical signature of addiction. We haven’t discovered the place where addiction happens in the brain.
Is addiction a disease of the brain? That’s a bit like saying that eating is a phenomenon of the stomach. The stomach is an important part of the story. But don’t forget the mouth, the intestines, the blood, and don’t forget the hunger, and also the whole socially-sustained practice of producing, shopping for and cooking food.
As much as I dislike sharing Psychology Today and all of their GROUNDBREAKING articles, this commentary is right on point. Do not trivialize addiction.
Addiction doesn’t mean really liking something
For one thing, this attitude trivializes addiction itself - It creates the belief that addiction is incredibly common and is just not that big of a deal. My Bachelor “Addicted” friend isn’t losing her job, her house, or even sleep over her terrible affliction and yet she has no problem putting it right there on the mantle next to a good old heroin habit.
The more we trivialize mental health disorders, which are difficult enough to diagnose, the more of a misunderstanding we create about their true impact. If every one of us is addicted to every thing we find ourselves engaging in, or caring about, a little more than we consider healthy than all those people who keep telling me that “everyone in the world is addicted to something” might just be right.
I am repeating this quote because it is spot on: The more we trivialize mental health disorders, which are difficult enough to diagnose, the more of a misunderstanding we create about their true impact.
Addiction is not about doing something a lot
So stop telling everyone you’re addicted to your Blackberry and take responsibility for the fact that you keep turning to your email messages because you like the satisfaction of seeing a new message or being able to check the latest NFL score. Feel good about and embrace your love for crappy television without having to resort to an explanation that makes it seem like your finger uncontrollably hits the right channel button… You’re lying to us, you’re lying to yourself, and you’re making those with a real problem seem like idiots.