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Wellcome Lecture in Neuroethics: Wayne Hall on the brain disease model of addiction

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Wellcome Lecture in Neuroethics: The brain disease model of addiction: Assessing its validity, utility and implications for public policy towards the treatment and prevention of addiction
Wayne Hall, NHMRC Australia Fellow, University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research

Thursday 14 June, 5.30 – 7.00 p.m., Seminar Room 1, Oxford Martin School, 34 Broad St.

Genetic and neuroscience research on addiction has been interpreted by leading figures in the USA as demonstrating that addiction is a chronic relapsing brain disease that reflects enduring changes in brain function that are produced by sustained heavy drug use and explain the inability of addicted persons to refrain from using drugs, despite their professed intentions to do so. The brain disease model contrasts starkly with the commonsense view that drug use is a free choice for which individual drug users are responsible. This paper: assesses the evidence and arguments offered in favour of the brain disease model of addiction; assesses the arguments advanced by critics of the model; considers the social and ethical implications of these views in dealing with addicted persons and in formulating public health policies that we should adopt to prevent the harmful use of and addiction to alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs.

Biographical Sketches

Wayne Hall is an NHMRC Australia Fellow in addiction neuroethics and Deputy Director (Policy) at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research. He was formerly: Professor of Public Health Policy in the School of Population Health (2005-2010), Director of the Office of Public Policy and Ethics at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (2001-2005) both at the University of Queensland; and Director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW (1994-2001).  He has advised the World Health Organization on: the health effects of cannabis use; the effectiveness of drug substitution treatment; the scientific quality of the Swiss heroin trials; the contribution of illicit drug use to the global burden of disease; and the ethical implications of genetic and neuroscience research on addiction. He was awarded an NHMRC Australia Fellowship in 2009 to research the public health, social policy and ethical implications of genetic and neuroscience research on drug use and addiction.

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