Substance abuse and addiction are difficult conditions to successfully treat. For example, the 12-month relapse rate among alcoholics is more than 60%, and it is nearly 75% for smokers and heroin users. One possible reason for treatment failure is the powerful way in which addictive substances affect the brain. Most addictive drugs appear to tap into the brain’s reward circuit, so that any behavior (taking a drug) preceding the psychological experience of reward is strongly reinforced. If addiction is a product of brain activity, it is logical that the treatment also must involve some change in brain activity. In fact, there are several forms of biologically-based drug treatments, including the use of agonist drugs that mimic some of the addictive drugs’ effects (e.g. methadone for heroin addiction), as well as other substances that alter activity in the reward system (such as Baclofen).
Watch this TEDMED Talk by Neuroscientist Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the NIH, on why our brains get addicted. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mnd2-al4LCU
Then answer the questions below.
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- Provide an analysis of the extent to which addiction to psychoactive drugs is a biological versus a psychological phenomenon.
- Support or refute the practice of using drug therapies for treating addiction. Be sure you are including current supportive research for your reply.
- Include in your argument above, discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of relying on drug therapy to treat addiction.