…”To understand addiction, we need to know more than that someone has taken a drug that he likes. We need to know about the rest of his life, about his social support, his history of mental illness, education, employment, as well as his values and sense of meaning and purpose.
We need to know the dose of the drug and the setting where he takes it. We need to know his age and how his culture views behavior related to that drug and something about the level of stress and trauma he experienced as a child.
In fact, social factors like unemployment, education level, traumatic life experience and amount of social support for recovery are currently better predictors of recovery than any brain factors yet discovered. So far, pretty brain pictures don’t necessarily tell us much. A recent study, in fact, found that simply presenting data with such images—relevant or not—made people more likely to be convinced by the authors’ claims.
In short, addiction doesn’t begin—or end—with “pleasure centers in the brain.” If we’re going to address it effectively, we need to recognize this reality and devote as much time and money to studying social factors as intensely as we do the brain.Of course, that might mean looking at issues like unemployment, child abuse and poverty that are far more uncomfortable than saying “nucleus accumbens” or “brain disease” and being done with it”…
read more of this article from Maia Szalavitz, a columnist at The Fix.