Sample Paper on Should Addiction to Drugs Be Labeled a Brain Disease?


The concept of drug addiction and its effect on the brain creates an idea that because drug exerts certain actions such as euphoria, there may be difference in the brain structure and function between drug users and those that do not. Here, the differences are seen as the effect of addition, and, as a result, creates the need for treatment. The issue of drug addiction and its impact on the brain has attracted broad arrays of debates. During the last century, psychologists and scientist began investigating the impact of drug addiction on the brain. Before, drug addiction was seen as a result of flawed morals, and the users described as people lacking self-discipline. As such, these views shaped the perception and thinking of people who viewed drug addiction as a moral failure, and not a health problem. These arguments emphasized on punishment rather than prevention and treatment of drug addiction. Drug addiction is labeled a brain disease because it creates changes in brain structure and functions.

The changes in structure and function of the human brain are basically why drug addition is considered a brain disease. Leshner Alan mentions that the core concept that have been at the center of scientific investigation is whether drug addiction leads to a disease resulting from the voluntary behavior of drug use. Heather (2013) defines drug addiction as a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior leading to the inability to control the use of legal and illegal drugs. Heather (2013) further mentions that substances like alcohol, marijuana and nicotine are categorized as drugs. Therefore, once a person is addicted to drugs, he or she may continue using them despite the harms associated with them. The consequence of voluntary drug use is the onset of uncontrolled desire to use drugs consistently. Hammer et al. (2013) shows that the craving for drug use alters behavior leading to the alteration and transformation of personal life. In addition, studies have revealed that drug addition has been the main reason for the destruction of the institution of family and society (Hammer et al., 2013).  In view of these observations, the negative consequences of drug addiction require medical attention through prevention and treatment. The arguments presented in Daniel’s text affirm that the brain controls mood, memory, perception and emotional state (Shiner & Woodstock, 2015).  For that reason, drug addiction is seen as an agent that alters the normal functioning of the brain to control mood, perception, and the ability of a person to retain information in the memory.

The magnitude of changes that drug addiction creates on the brain is perhaps, why it is perceived as a brain disease. The land-mark article by Leshner is a testament that, indeed, drug addiction is a major problem to the brain. Though, there are scholars who argue that every human experience has the ability to change the brain (Shiner & Woodstock, 2015). Activities like learning and locating a house within a new city can change the brain when the sensory, short and long-term memory is involved. Nonetheless, Shiner & Woodstock (2015) supporting Leshner’s argument mention that the changes to the brain are not equal, mentioning that the magnitude of changes that drug addition causes in the brain are high compared to other experiences. Consistent use of drugs creates intense activation of brain system making it difficult for drug users to desist from the use of drugs. Shiner & Woodstock (2015) mention that the genetic factors of a human body are known to determine the intensity and quality of subjective effect of drug addiction, as well as the potential of addition, and consequences of withdrawing. In view of the argument, experiences change the structure and functioning of the brain, but the magnitude is slightly high on drug addiction.

Drug addiction mimics stimuli compromising the ability of the brain to respond to a stimulus. Heather (2013) asserts that the process of addiction is facilitated by the action of dopamine, one of the brain’s neurotransmitters. The dopamine occupies the circuit pathway reacting to the presence of food, sex and other important stimulus. Heather (2013) further notes that dopamine enhances learning to respond to different experiences. However, consistent drug use allows the dopamine to copy this natural response to stimuli. As a result, consistent use of drug strengthens the reward pathway, making users to desire drugs just like people desire to eat or have sex. In other words, addiction considerably alters the reward system in the brain, thereby compromising its ability to select the best and worst rewards. Per Heather (2013), the addictive behaves then replaces the normal healthy and self-care behaviors. Hence, addiction triggers biological and behavioral response to participate in addictive activities frequently despite the negative consequences that ensue.

Addiction alters the impulse control ability of the brain. According to Borgelt et al. (2011), addiction negatively affects the frontal cortex of the brain in a way that it changes the impulse control and judgment. This is the core reason drug addicts often resort to use drugs as it makes them feel normal. Borgelt et al. (2011) mention that the frontal cortex affected by drug addiction is often involved in blocking impulsivity and delays gratification. The frontal cortex continues to grow from youth into adulthood creating a dilemma to children or teenagers exposed to drugs at an early stage. Borgelt et al. (2011) have connected early drug exposure to unprecedented addiction at later stages of human development. This argument is reinforced in Leshner’s article dispelling the conception that a person can move from a normal drug user to addict and then back to normal. Studies have confirmed that it is a fallacy that a person can move in between stages of addiction (Robison & Nestler, 2011).Therefore, the moment a person is addicted to drug, he or she moves to the next stage of life. Nonetheless, some studies have shown that, indeed, very few people have managed to move in between normal use and addiction (Heather, 2013). This difficulty in moving between stages is as a result of molecular changes in the structure of the brain and circuits that control impulses.

Consequently, addiction has been classified as an illness. Many drug addicts have often lost the battle and have been unable to regain the normal lives. As such, Dentzer (2011) has termed addiction as a recurrent illness because only few people have managed to deal with its consequences and resumed normal functioning. Even so, the few that have managed to regain their lives have to undergo repeated treatment to suppress the re-occurrence of drug addiction. Notably, in classifying drug addiction as a brain disease, it is important to understand its complexity. The fact that addiction compels a person to participate in undesirable behavior makes addition to be listed among brain diseases like stroke, depression, and schizophrenia among others (Dentzer, 2011). The only difference is that unlike the other diseases that occur due to disasters or accidents, drug addiction starts as a voluntary behavior. Again, not everybody that uses drugs slide into addiction. Dentzer (2011) avows that the intensity of drug uses occurs to due altered functions of the brain that makes a user to think that using certain drugs is the right thing to do. This concurs with other studies revealing that once the brain is configured to the use of drugs it becomes uncontrollable, and what a person depicts through desire and craving is actually a disease.

In conclusion, drug addiction is actually a brain disease because it alters the structure and functioning of the brain. The argument presented by the study concurs with Leshner’s land-mark article revealing the misconceptions that surrounded drug addiction. This research is essential in dispelling the stigma surrounding addiction where sections of people believe that it is a moral impairment that needs punishment. Indeed, addiction is not a moral problem because drug addicts are struggling with an ailment. The investigation has revealed that drug addiction affects the ability of the brain to coordinate rewards and make sound decisions. As a result, drug addiction compels the brain to react normally even when executing negative stimuli. Hence, addiction mimics the way the brain cells and circuits react to behavioral stimuli like eating or having sex. In the end, the brain responds to craving and desire to use drugs as a normal body process. The classification of drug addiction as a brain disease is a landmark discovery that supports the need for prevention and treatment of drug addiction just like other mental diseases affecting people in societies.



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