Why We Need to Stop Nora Volkow From Taking Over the World

Stanton Peele By: Dr. Stanton Peele

Posted on April 2nd, 2014 - Last updated: October 22nd, 2018
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Stanton Peele versus Nora Volkow in the On-line Magazine, Substance.Com

Stanton Peele sees the future of addiction and addiction treatment, and it is bleak.

The disease theory of addiction, which has always been with us in one form or another, is now associated with Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), as its principal representative. Volkow holds worldwide sway with her approach, which focuses exclusively on neuroscience and the brain, an approach that is increasingly seen to be the key to eliminating addiction.

“Groundbreaking discoveries about the brain have revolutionized our understanding of drug addiction, enabling us to respond effectively to the problem,” trumpets the White House website, beneath a video of Volkow prostyletizing her theory.

Yet there are no diagnoses or treatments based on neuroscientific research pegged to the brain scans so avidly pursued and enthusiastically presented by Volkow and her school. We are told to be patient because the brave new scientific paradigm must mature before it produces real-life applications.

Instead, Dr. Peele notes, the neuroscientific “revolution” is creating a mass of bystanders and victims of their own disease—even as study after study shows that most addicts and alcoholics outgrow their habits.Rather than ushering in a curative revolution, according to Peele,

“Nora Volkow has pulled off a remarkable coup in the field of addiction. She has built an international reputation—and mission—by persuading us that we can’t do what we have been doing for centuries: resolve addictions through our values, purposes and life experiences. Studies following addicts and alcoholics over the course of their lives show this to be a regular occurrence. People who have quit smoking or left behind a drug habit or outgrown a youthful drinking problem know this. By denying this naturally occurring phenomenon so as to fit drug use, drinking and many other human activities into an institutionalized, medical framework, Volkow and her expanding neuroscience legions are effectively reducing natural recovery—along with help that contributes to the natural processes that lead to recovery—while prolonging otherwise-transient addictive behavior. And they are glorying in this achievement.

And why do we care about Dr. Peele’s opinion? His body of work, beginning with his publication of Love and Addiction with Archie Brodsky in 1975, which he has expanded and targeted in the intervening years, stands as a beacon to the directions addiction theory and practice have taken for the last four decades. He has seen the future of the rapidly expanding addiction field of addiction, and it is in the research that shows us that we are accelerating down a path of more, rather than less, loss of control: “belief in the disease theory—to the extent that it persuades you of your powerlessness to control your substance use—has been shown to increase relapse and diminish the prospects for recovery”.


Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.


  • PsiChiStudent says:

    Dr. Peele and Dr. Volkow — I cannot thank you both enough for sharing your expertise throughout the years. I have utilized (and cited!) your work in many papers, PPTs and other avenues. You have taught me much and, in turn, I hope I am educating others and enticing them to learn more. You are correct in that addictions are beyond epidemic proportions. Thank you both again for your contributions.

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