, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 19–27 | Cite as

Views of Addiction Neuroscientists and Clinicians on the Clinical Impact of a ‘Brain Disease Model of Addiction’

  • Stephanie Bell
  • Adrian Carter
  • Rebecca Mathews
  • Coral Gartner
  • Jayne Lucke
  • Wayne Hall
Original Paper


Addiction is increasingly described as a “chronic and relapsing brain disease”. The potential impact of the brain disease model on the treatment of addiction or addicted individuals’ treatment behaviour remains uncertain. We conducted a qualitative study to examine: (i) the extent to which leading Australian addiction neuroscientists and clinicians accept the brain disease view of addiction; and (ii) their views on the likely impacts of this view on addicted individuals’ beliefs and behaviour. Thirty-one Australian addiction neuroscientists and clinicians (10 females and 21 males; 16 with clinical experience and 15 with no clinical experience) took part in 1 h semi-structured interviews. Most addiction neuroscientists and clinicians did not uncritically support the use of brain disease model of addiction. Most were cautious about the potential for adverse impacts on individuals’ recovery and motivation to enter treatment. While some recognised the possibility that the brain disease model of addiction may provide a rationale for addicted persons to seek treatment and motivate behaviour change, Australian addiction neuroscientist and clinicians do not assume that messages about “diseased brains” will always lead to increased treatment-seeking and reduced drug use. Research is needed on how neuroscience research could be used in ways that optimise positive outcomes for addicted persons.


Addiction Treatment Attitudes Qualitative research Neuroscience Brain disease 



The research presented in this paper was funded by Fellowships awarded to Dr Carter and Professor Hall by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (Grant IDs 628935 and 569738 respectively). We would like to thank Anke Snoek, Carla Meurk and Daniel Buchman for comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests

The Authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephanie Bell
    • 1
  • Adrian Carter
    • 1
    • 3
  • Rebecca Mathews
    • 1
  • Coral Gartner
    • 1
  • Jayne Lucke
    • 1
  • Wayne Hall
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Queensland Centre for Clinical ResearchThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Queensland Brain InstituteThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital CampusThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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