On February 13, 2007, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the National Institutes of Health released its first consumer publication on the science of drug addiction. Entitled, “Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction,” the 30-page booklet is intended to help the general public understand drug addiction from a scientific point of view. NIDA’s goal is to reduce the stigma of drug addiction.
The primary message of “The Science of Addiction” is that drug addiction is a brain disease, a chronic illness which can be managed much like diabetes or asthma. A PDF copy of the booklet can be downloaded at: http://www.drugabuse.gov.
“Thanks to science, our views and our responses to drug abuse have changed dramatically, but many people today still do not understand why people become addicted to drugs or how drugs change the brain to foster compulsive drug abuse,” said NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. “This booklet aims to fill that knowledge gap by providing scientific information about the disease of drug addiction in language that is easily understandable to the public.”
Because drugs alter the brain both structurally and functionally, scientists view drug addiction as a brain disease. Before addiction sets in, most people choose to take drugs of their own volition. However, in the long run, drug abuse can alter the brain in ways that affect self-control and decision-making.
“The Science of Addiction” explains this process. It also talks about why people may choose to take drugs initially, why addiction happens to some drug users and not others, what drugs do to the brain, and how addiction can be prevented and treated. The booklet stresses that relapses should be expected, just as they would be expected in the course of treating any chronic condition. It points out that relapse does not mean that treatment has failed; it means that treatment should be continued or attenuated to assist the addict in recovery.
The release of “The Science of Addiction” was announced at a press briefing for a new HBO documentary, Addiction, scheduled to air on March 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and NIDA collaborated on the making of Addiction. Like the booklet, the documentary explains that addiction is a brain disease which can respond to treatment; it also highlights new findings in the area of drug addiction treatment. People who are struggling with drug addiction and scientists who are working on new treatments were interviewed for the documentary.
Source: National Institutes of Health
News release: www.nih.gov/news