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National leaders advance understanding of brain disease concept

February 1, 2016
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Three of the most influential voices for science-based treatment of addictions have co-authored a New England Journal of Medicine article that outlines the neurobiological components of the disease and that highlights opportunities to improve prevention and treatment services.

Published in the Jan. 28 issue of the journal, the article is co-authored by the directors of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and A. Thomas McLellan, PhD, co-founder and board chair of the Treatment Research Institute (TRI). McLellan, NIDA's Nora Volkow, MD, and NIAAA's George Koob, PhD, discuss in the article the addiction stages of binge and intoxication, withdrawal and negative affect, and preoccupation and anticipation (craving).

They write that “a more comprehensive understanding of the brain disease model of addiction may help to moderate some of the moral judgment attached to addictive behaviors and foster more scientific and public health-oriented approaches to prevention and treatment.”

The article demonstrates how advances in neurobiology have improved the understanding of how addiction compromises a person's ability to make sound decisions and to maintain emotional balance.