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With more than 20 million American suffering from a diagnosed substance use disorder, we ALL know people who have this disease. it might be your uncle who downs a case of beer while he watches football, or a cousin who loves to “do lunch” that includes a bottle of wine or three dry martinis, or your nephew who was suspended from school the third time his dad’s prescription pills were found in his locker.

And here’s where it gets sticky: in our culture, drugs and alcohol are everywhere, and the majority of people can have a drink, or puff on a pipe for relaxation, without consequences. So we tend to view those who can’t seem to control their use of substances as being weak-willed…they could stop if they wanted to, right???

Science  tells us otherwise. According to the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, substance use disorder (SUD) (also known as alcoholism or addiction) is a chronic, progressive disease of the brain that is fatal if left untreated. 

The media and resources below will introduce you to some of the evidence for the disease concept of SUD. When we understand more about the parts of the brain it impacts, it is easier to frame the behaviors of those suffering from it. The videos also highlight the genetic aspect of SUD…something that all of us who work with young children can see as a call to action about the importance of supporting their development.

Resources to Guide You On Your Quest

Are Drug Addicts Born Susceptible?

This video gives a good, brief overview of SUD and its heritability, featuring experts in the field, including Dr. Nora Volkow, who is the neuroscientist who heads the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

Addiction: What Is It?

A straight-forward and thorough explanation that summarizes what is known about the disease of substance use disorder and how it highjacks the brain.

The Swiss Cheese Model of Addiction

This short video uses Swiss cheese as a metaphor for the risks of developing substance use disorder.

Why Do Our Brains Get Addicted?

This TED Talk by Dr. Nora Volkow, renowned neuroscientist and director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, offers deeper insight into the current research on substance use disorder.

Understanding Addiction

This is a clear, concise description of the disease of substance use disorder, with links to more in-depth information on the website. In  addition, scroll down for a straightforward video that summarizes the science of addiction in just over three minutes.

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9 Facts About Addiction

9 Facts About Addiction People Usually Get Wrong

This post from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is geared to parents whose children may be developing SUD. It tackles stigma head on, and provides evidence-based information about the disease.

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