Episode 72: Dr. Nicole Labor and the Science of Addiction

Dr. Nicole Labor practices addiction medicine at Summa Healthcare in Akron, Ohio. This is the old St. Thomas Hospital where Sister Ignatia opened the first alcoholic ward in the United States, and who with Dr. Bob Smith treated and cared for hundreds of suffering alcoholics. 

Dr. Nicole Labor

I first learned about Dr. Labor several months ago when a visitor to AA Beyond Belief recommended that we link to a video of a lecture she gave at Kent State on the topic of the neurobiology of addiction. I watched the video and found the presentation so compelling that I watched it several more times, and shared it with friends on Facebook. 

I think that understanding the science of addiction and why it’s a disease is essential. It was certainly important enough to include in the “Doctor’s Opinion” in the Big Book

So, if it was helpful for the alcoholic of 1939 to understand the nature of alcoholism as presented by a doctor who treated alcoholics at that time; then it is equally important for alcoholics living in the 21st Century to receive information from a doctor who treats alcoholics today. 

I would recommend that you take the time to watch the video of Dr. Labor’s talk at Kent State for a more comprehensive presentation on the topic of addiction than what we were able to cover during this podcast. Additionally, you should listen to the podcast at Cover2 Resources to learn more about Dr. Labor’s own personal journey and experience as an addict in recovery. 

In our podcast, Dr. Labor provides a brief explanation of the neurobiology of addiction and the effectiveness of 12 Step programs to treat addiction. Dr. Labor believes the 12 Steps are effective in treating addiction because they help us exercise and develop that part of our brain that is damaged through addiction.

It was an honor to have Dr. Labor as a guest on our podcast, and I thank her for her kindness and for being so generous with her time. 


Kent State Talk: Recovery Rocks

Cover2 Podcast

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2 years ago

Thanks for the podcast. Before I listen to the other two links, the Kent State lecture and her personal journey, I just want to comment on a couple things (before I forget what I was going to say). I like how Dr. Labor explains how Chronic Stress can prep the mid-brain for addiction b.e.f.o.r.e. the addict ever tries a substance. And I like how she explains that neglect (I assume this includes childhood neglect) is enough of a trauma to create the addicted mid-brain. But where my opinion is very different is including eating disorders with all the other “process… Read more »

2 years ago

Now I’m not going to be a doctor, so maybe it doesn’t matter much to me, but I’m still curious: Roy Eskapa, and Dr Sinclair (the Naltrexone people) talk about endorphines, dr Labor talks about dopamine  – though the mechanism they describe is the same. Dr Gabor Mate talks about both, in this excellent talk: – but still in such a way that i still can’t really tell what’s what, and why. Then there are apparently at least a couple more brain chemicals involved, serotonin, and oxytocin – i imagine all this will get sorted out over the next few… Read more »

2 years ago

Great episode. Thanks to Nicole and you.

2 years ago

Didn’t listen to the podcast yet, but I did watch her Kent State talk, and it was very good. I learned a lot.

I would say there seemed to be evidence that she was a bit too uncritical of the 12 step recovery model, but then again, she can’t get into everything in one talk.

thanks for putting this on

2 years ago

I just finished the Kent State lecture… WOW!! It put together all of my sober behaviors and explained why I got sober this time. Even leaving my husband of 12 years and moving out at 3 days. I needed detox. Now I know if a newcomer enters the rooms to recommend detox. Thank you. I am the parent of an addict and being the good Al-anon I am – I sent him the link… Now to get off the addiction of being addicted to the addict. Being an alcoholic/addict, I realized what step 1 meant to me in Al-anon after… Read more »

John S
2 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer

Hi Jennifer. I’m glad you were able to listen to the Kent State lecture. I really enjoyed that. It was probably the first time that I heard someone explain the science of addiction in a way that I could comprehend. It makes sense to me.

Thank you so much for listening and commenting. I appreciate that.