The Subjective and Objective Views Synthesized
Since Alcoholics Anonymous was founded, sober addicts have met and described how they feel, why they turned to drugs, and how to get off — and stay off them. Though their stories are idiosyncratic, their commonalities draw a compelling portrait of the addict experience. That collective perception led the founders of AA to reach their most significant conclusion: that addiction was a disease of fundamental irrationality, that there’s a distinct “addict brain,” which loses control over drug use. That’s why rational approaches to attacking addiction usually miss the mark, AA concluded, and why they focused instead on a spiritual solution.
Experience also revealed that most addicts couldn’t get sober on their own. AA recognized that it’s nearly impossible to see one’s own irrationality without help. The support of others was necessary to identify and reorient the mis-working of the addict brain until it heals enough to fend for itself. AA prescribes a group solution — it’s a program intended to be done in fellowship with others, not alone.
But AA has never claimed to know why addiction is an irrational affliction; AA’s purpose has never been to scrutinize its collective experience scientifically.
That’s where neuroscientists come in. They use the scientific method to develop an objective model of addiction. With the advent of modern brain-imaging technology, scientists can now literally see the impact drugs have on the brain. They have a long way to go before they’ll provide a comprehensive description of all the complex brain changes involved in addiction, but they’ve come far enough to outline the disease’s neurological underpinnings.
Neuroscientists confirm AA’s long-standing view that addiction is a disease. But unlike AA, researchers have observed how drug abuse changes the brain at the molecular and cellular levels, and why those alterations result in irrationality.
Sober addicts’ experience and the science of addiction are like individual eyepieces that together render stereoscopic vision and a more complete picture. That’s the aim of this website.
The science reveals not only that AA has it right, but why. (For more, please click on Addiction Science.) Science also informs the best approaches to treatment and fights stigma with fact.
For more on this topic, click on How Becoming a Neuroscience Geek Explained and Supported My Long-Term Recovery.