Negotiating the Relationship Between Addiction, Ethics, and Brain Science
National Core for Neuroethics, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.AJOB neuroscience 02/2010; 1(1):36-45. DOI: 10.1080/21507740903508609
Advances in neuroscience are changing how mental health issues such as addiction are understood and addressed as a brain disease. Although a brain disease model legitimizes addiction as a medical condition, it promotes neuro-essentialist thinking, categorical ideas of responsibility and free choice, and undermines the complexity involved in its emergence. We propose a 'biopsychosocial systems' model where psycho-social factors complement and interact with neurogenetics. A systems approach addresses the complexity of addiction and approaches free choice and moral responsibility within the biological, lived experience and socio-historical context of the individual. We examine heroin-assisted treatment as an applied case example within our framework. We conclude with a discussion of the model and its implications for drug policy, research, addiction health care systems and delivery, and treatment of substance use problems.