Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Latest thinking on addiction

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-05-19

Just when alcopops and alcohol harm reduction are in the public eye comes a very useful insight into the subject of addiction generally…

An excellent review of the neuropharmacology of addiction (British Journal of Pharmacology doi:10.1038/bjp.2008.131) has been made freely available from the Nature website (2008-04-14) as HTML and PDF.  (I recommend the HTML version if you want to see reviews).  Snippets over the fold.

It’s worth noting that the impact of addiction on GDP (at least in the US) is 3.5%, roughly equivalent to annual GDP growth.  Add in the harm from other addictions involving similar neural mechanisms but not "classical" drugs (including, dare I say, power-addiction), and this is obviously a serious issue for the economic, as well as social, wellbeing of the nation.

From the abstract…

… the authors endeavour to describe the latest thinking on the neural theory of addiction and corresponding novel pharmacotherapeutic targets, and in this way to set the stage for future advances in research and drug development

From the front of the full article… (my bolding)

Substance abuse and addiction are major public health issues of both the developed and the developing world.  Importantly however, we should acknowledge that addiction is not a disease of the modern era.  Indeed, mankind has been characterized throughout history as being a species that actively seeks to undergo ‘mind-altering’ experiences be it for cultural, religious or social reasons.  Thus, while we should not blame the industrial and/or technological revolutions as contributors to the issue, we should actively seek to utilize their advancements to assist in seeking answers to the problem.  Firstly, we need to understand the scale of the problem—sobering statistics may help to devise solutions for sobriety.  The most recent published data (US Department of Health & Human Services) available suggest that the incidence of substance-use disorders among the general population is approximately 9.2% (see Aldworth et al., 2007).  The financial burden of drug addiction/dependence/abuse is rather difficult to determine; however, it has been suggested to cost up to 3.5% of the gross domestic product within Western society (Pouletty, 2002).  Importantly, these figures only account for the economic burden, while addiction also carries an enormous and impossible-to-underestimate social and emotional burden.  Unfortunately, the cost of addiction to society is not mirrored by the funds invested for either basic or clinical research into this mind disorder.

I must wonder whether the alcopop and alcohol harm reduction bill will be associated with funds for research and treatment commensurate with the economic impact.  If not, the government opens itself up to accusations of caring more about political advantage than fixing problems.


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