To oppose the dominant influence of the Brain Disease Model of Addiction, and to collaborate on
developing alternative ways of understanding and responding to addiction.

Origins of the Addiction Theory Network (ATN)

The origins of the Addiction Theory Network are as follows.

In February 2014, the journal Nature published an editorial concerned with the attempt by animal rights activists to close down addiction research laboratories conducting experiments on animals1. The editorial also stated that drug addiction was “a chronic relapsing disease that changes the structure and function of the brain” and that this was not “particularly controversial, at least among scientists” (p. 5).

Derek Heim, Professor of Psychology at Edgehill University, UK, wrote a letter to the journal protesting against these assertions and obtained signatures of 94 addiction scholars and researchers from around the world2. Heim’s letter disagreed with “the one-dimensional portrayal of addiction” in the editorial and its claim that this was uncontroversial among scientists. The authors argued that “substance abuse cannot be divorced from its social, psychological, cultural, political, legal and environmental contexts: it is not simply a consequence of brain malfunction” (p. 40).

Subsequently, with assistance from Nick Heather, Heim contacted the signatories to his letter to Nature to ask whether they would be interested in joining a group, to be known as the Addiction Theory Network, with the aims of opposing the dominant influence of the BDMA, fostering debate, and collaborating to develop alternative ways of understanding and responding to addiction. A good proportion agreed, and many others have subsequently joined the network. At the time of writing (15 November, 2021), membership stands at 223 from all round the world. Membership of the ATN is open to scientists, academics, students and practitioners with a bona fide interest in addiction and who broadly concur with the aims of the network.


  1. Animal Farm (2014). Editorial. Nature, 506, 5.
  2. Heim, D. (2014). Addiction: Not just brain malfunction (Letter). Nature, 507, 40.