|The changes seen in this brain scan are actually not|
so unique after all
(2) In the case of an actual disease, the tissue of the body is in a state of abnormal biological functioning. In the case of addiction, the tissue of the body is not in a state of abnormal biological functioning; the neurobiological characteristics seen in the drug addicted brain are not abnormal, and are analogous to the neurobiology of most other learned behaviors. Neuroplasticity refers to the recently demonstrated ability of the brain to change its structure and function. This allows the brain to expand and strengthen particular circuits that are frequently used, and to shrink or weaken other circuits that are rarely used. The study of neuroplasticity has shown brain changes reflecting ones own lifestyle experience, personal habits, and environmental input. So, when proponents of the disease model claim that drug addiction is marked by "changes in the structure of the brain", these changes are not so novel whatsoever, and neither is the process which induces these changes. A process which occurs, and reverses itself, over time, at every level of the brain, depending on ones behavioral habits and environment.
(3) In the case of an actual disease, the abnormal biological functioning of the tissue causes undesirable symptoms. The symptoms of the drug addicted brain state are not symptoms at all, as there is a crucial element of conscious personal choice lying between the brain pathology and the behavior (or so-called "symptom") of drug use. This is not the case with a disease such as cancer or diabetes, where manifestation of disease symptoms are not subject to judgement, choice, or restraint.
(4) One major difference between a disease such as diabetes and the supposed disease of addiction, and one which further demonstrates that drug use is not involuntary, is the ability for the addicted to turn down drug use when offered a positive or negative incentive. A diabetic is certainly not able to lower his blood sugar in the face of a threat such as a gun to the head, or a reward for doing so. Recent research in addicts has shown the use of incentives to be succesful in leading the addicted to abstain from drug use, and in the process begin devoting their time to more rewarding pursuits through the prizes received for clean urine screens, such as sporting goods and movie tickets - this approach is known as contingency management.