Addiction is a Brain Disease – Dr. Nora Volkow

by Lisa Frederiksen

“All addictive substances send dopamine levels surging in the small central zone of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, which is thought to be the main reward center [located in the Limbic System]. Amphetamines induce cells to release it directly; cocaine blocks its reuptake; alcohol and narcotics like morphine, heroin and many prescription pain relievers suppress nerve cells that inhibit its release.”


“Researchers now postulate that addiction requires two things. First is a genetic vulnerability, whose variables may include the quantity of dopamine receptors in the brain: Too few receptors and taking the drug is not particularly memorable, too many and it is actually unpleasant. Second, repeated assaults to the spectrum of circuits regulated by dopamine, involving motivation, expectation, memory and learning, among many others, appear to fundamentally alter the brain’s workings.”

The above are two direct quotes from Abigail Zuger’s, June 13, 2011, article, “Profiles in Science | Nora D. Volkow, A General in the Drug War.”

Dr. Volkow is the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). I urge you to read the entire article, hyperlinked above. The better we all understand addiction (whether it’s to drugs or alcohol) for what it is — a brain disease — the more able we will be to prevent and/or intervene in the progression of the brain disease of addiction.

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Lisa Frederiksen

Lisa Frederiksen

Author | Speaker | Consultant | Founder at
Lisa is the author of hundreds of articles and 11 books, including "If You Loved Me, You'd Stop!," "Addiction Recovery: What Helps, What Doesn't," and "Secondhand Drinking: the Phenomenon That Affects Millions." She is a national keynote speaker with over 25 years speaking experience, consultant, and founder of She has spent more than 13 years studying 21st century brain research in order to write, speak, and consult on substance use disorders prevention, intervention and treatment; mental disorders; addiction (aka substance use disorders) as a brain disease; adolescent addiction treatment vs adult addiction treatment; effective treatment for co-occurring disorders (having both a substance use and mental disorder); secondhand drinking | drugging; help for the family; and related subjects. In 2015, she founded SHD Prevention, providing training and consulting to companies, public agencies, unions, nonprofits and other entities to address the workplace impacts of employee secondhand drinking and alcohol misuse.

2 Responses to Addiction is a Brain Disease – Dr. Nora Volkow

  1. Good information. I also thought she was wonderful in the HBO Addiction video. Thanks for sharing her quotes and link.

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