Science of Drug Addiction | Drug Addiction

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Drugs, Brains, & Addiction – The Science of Addiction
Source: NIDA

Preface

NIDA is the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a component of the US Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to bring scientific research and findings to bear on drug abuse and addiction. NIDA functions in the US and globally in two ways: to strategically support and conduct scientific research across a broad range of disciplines, and to disseminate and use the results of its research to improve drug addiction treatment, prevention and policy.

From the Director of NIDA

How Science Has Revolutionized the Understanding of Drug Addiction

Throughout much of the last century, scientists studying drug abuse labored in the shadows of powerful myths and misconceptions about the nature of addiction. When science began to study addictive behavior in the 1930s, people addicted to drugs were thought to be morally flawed and lacking in willpower. Those views shaped society’s responses to drug abuse, treating it as a moral failing rather than a health problem, which led to an emphasis on punitive rather than preventative and therapeutic actions. Today, thanks to science, our views and our responses to drug abuse has changed dramatically. Groundbreaking discoveries about the brain have revolutionized our understanding of drug addiction, enabling us to respond effectively to the problem.

As a result of scientific research, we know that addiction is a disease that affects both brain and behavior. We have identified many of the biological and environmental factors and are beginning to search for the genetic variations that contribute to the development and progression of the disease. Scientists use this knowledge to develop effective prevention and drug treatment approaches that reduce the toll drug abuse takes on individuals, families, and communities.

“Drug addiction is a brain disease that can be treated.”
Nora D. Volkow, M.D.
Director
National Institute on Drug Abuse

Despite these advances, many people today do not understand why individuals become addicted to drugs or how drugs change the brain to foster compulsive drug abuse. This booklet aims to fill that knowledge gap by providing scientific information about the disease of drug addiction, including the many harmful consequences of drug abuse and the basic approaches that have been developed to prevent and treat the disease. At the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), we believe that increased understanding of the basics of addiction will empower people to make informed choices in their own lives, adopt science-based policies and programs that reduce drug abuse and addiction in their communities, and support scientific research that improves the Nation’s well-being.

Nora D. Volkow, M.D.
Director
National Institute on Drug Abuse

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Science of Drug Addiction | Drug Addiction

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