The (in)Significance of the Addiction Debate

Anna Goldberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Web of Science)


Substance addiction affects millions of individuals worldwide and yet there is no consensus regarding its conceptualisation. Recent neuroscientific developments fuel the view that addiction can be classified as a brain disease, whereas a different body of scholars disagrees by claiming that addictive behaviour is a choice. These two models, the Brain Disease Model and the Choice Model, seem to oppose each other directly. This article contends the belief that the two models in the addiction debate are polar opposites. It shows that it is not the large amount of addiction research in itself what sets the models apart, but rather their extrapolated conclusions. Moreover, some of the most fiercely debated aspects - for instance, whether or not addiction should be classified as a disease or disorder - are irrelevant for the conceptualisation of addiction. Instead, the real disagreement is shown to revolve around capacities. Discussing addiction-related capacities, especially regarding impaired control, rather than the assumed juxtaposition of the two models can be considered the true addiction debate. More insight into the extent to which the capacities of the addicted individual were affected would be highly useful in various other areas, especially legal responsibility
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-324
Number of pages14
Issue number3
Early online date2019
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Addiction debate
  • Brain disease model
  • Capacities
  • Choice model
  • Criminal responsibility
  • Neurolaw

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