Here are some notes from Dr. Petros Levounis’s talk about the current understanding of addiction.
Section 1 of the talk
5:40. Addiction was once seen as individual weakness and moral failure. Later, medical research exploded that understanding.
6:05. Addiction is now seen to be a medical illness with substantial biological and genetic underpinnings. In addition, psychological and social causes are at work too.
7:05. When these causes combine sufficiently, leading a person to encounter addictive substances, sometimes in an effort to solve a problem through self-medication, the substances actually alter the workings of the brain. From here, having altered the person’s brain, addiction has begun. The addiction now has a life of its own independent of the forces that set it in motion to begin with.
7:35. Once the addiction is underway, treatment will very likely require addressing not just the originating causes, whether biological, genetic, psychological, or social. The mechanism of addiction will now also have to be addressed in treatment.
This is the basic model of our modern understanding of addiction as a biopsychosocial illness.
8:35. Cautionary note in this model: Even for a person free from the biological, psychological, social underpinnings of addiction, addictive substances are nevertheless addictive.
These notes are a combination of wording from the lecture and paraphrase. Any errors in understanding are my own.
See also “Combining the Science of Addiction with the Art of Engagement,” an introduction to Dr. Levounis’s work:
“What a formidable enemy. Addiction is a little like cancer. Both are chronic relapsing illnesses. Some people get the monkey off their backs and never look back. But many have relapses, and we need to help them.” –Petros Levounis