- Well-supported scientific evidence shows that addiction to alcohol or drugs is a chronic brain disease that has potential for recurrence and recovery.
- Well-supported evidence shows that the addiction process involves a three-stage cycle: binge/intoxication, withdrawal/negative affect, and preoccupation/anticipation. This cycle becomes more severe as a person continues substance use and it produces dramatic changes in brain function that reduce a person’s ability to control their substance use.
- Well-supported scientific evidence shows that disruptions in three areas of the brain are particularly important in the onset, development, and maintenance of substance use disorders: the basal ganglia, the extended amygdala, and the prefrontal cortex. These disruptions:
- enable substance-associated cues to trigger substance seeking (i.e., they increase incentive salience)
- reduce sensitivity of brain systems involved in the experience of pleasure or reward, and heighten activation of brain stress systems
- reduce functioning of brain executive control systems, which are involved in the ability to make decisions and regulate one’s actions, emotions, and impulses
- Supported scientific evidence shows that these changes in the brain persist long after substance use stops. It is not yet known how much these changes may be reversed or how long that process may take.
- Well-supported scientific evidence shows that adolescence is a critical “at-risk period” for substance use and addiction. All addictive drugs, including alcohol and marijuana, have especially harmful effects on the adolescent brain, which is still undergoing significant development.
* “Well-supported”: when evidence is derived from multiple rigorous human and nonhuman studies; “Supported”: when evidence is derived from rigorous but fewer human and nonhuman studies.