For decades the National Institute on Drug Abuse has largely treated addiction as “a chronic brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works.”
Marc Lewis, a developmental neuroscientist – who detailed his own addiction in Memoirs Of An Addicted Brain – refutes the disease model of addiction. His new book, The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not A Disease, argues that considering addiction as a disease is not only wrong, but also harmful. Rather, he argues, addiction is a behavioral problem that requires willpower and motivation to change.
Dr Lewis’s theory has divided the medical profession and those suffering from addiction. Some applaud Lewis for challenging the disease model; others have labelled his ideas as dangerous, and him a zealot.
A former drug addict himself, Lewis believes that self-trust is essential for someone to overcome an addiction. Unfortunately, self-trust is extremely difficult for an addict to achieve. But the way to build self-trust, Lewis explains, is to begin an internal dialogue with your future-self, and convince your present-self that if you can overcome just a single urge then you can overcome addiction. He recommends writing the word ‘NO’ on a piece of paper and reading it at every moment you have an urge. This method worked for Lewis. Gradually, he started believing that if he could cope a few hours without drugs, then he could cope for a few days and, eventually, for good.
Lewis explains it better himself in this TED Talk: