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Unit 7 in the Online Review discusses one of the most important developments over the past two decades in the field of alcohol and drug studies:  the “brain disease” model of addiction.  Researchers and top administrators at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have taken the lead in defining virtually all forms of addictive behavior—including alcohol dependence—as chronic, relapsing diseases of the brain.  These advocates have used dramatic, high-tech images of the “addicted brain” and massive media campaigns, such as the HBO documentary, Addiction, to promote this individualistic viewpoint and to stress the need for research on pharmacological and biomedical interventions.  At the same time, a number of critics have argued that the brain disease model ignores social and psychological factors involved in the etiology and treatment of addiction.  They contend that drinking and drug use are unlike most diseases and involve choices and voluntary behavior.  Finally, critics claim that the most effective treatments of addiction rely upon group relationships and personal decisions to change behavior.   

Take a look at the material in Unit 7 of the Online Review.  Use the “Resources” link to view two or three episodes of the HBO documentary, Addiction, and become familiar with the work and ideas of Dr. Nora Volkow, one of the foremost advocates of the brain disease model.  Next, follow the links near the bottom of the “Lectures” page and read two brief essays by Sally Satel, a psychiatrist and critic of this biomedical approach to addiction.  Then, post your 200-word (minimum) response to this controversial issue.  What do you think of the “brain disease” model of alcohol and drug dependence?  Is it a valid way of describing addiction?  Is it helpful or harmful to the treatment process? 


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