The Edmond Sun


May 19, 2009

Science expands definition of addiction

EDMOND — When science first studied addictive behavior individuals who became addicted to a substance commonly were viewed as being morally flawed human beings lacking willpower.

Today, that view has changed.

Pat Nichols, founder of the Edmond chapter of Parents Helping Parents, said it is important to not associate the behavior of an addict as “willing” and/or with a lack of moral character.

“Addiction requires treatment like any other disease,” Nichols said. “Individuals can’t stop on their own.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. Its many programs help inform policy and improve practice.

David McCann is acting director of the NIDA’s Pharmacotherapies and Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse division, which is modeled after a typical pharmaceutical company. The division conducts all phases of medication development, from synthesis and screening of potential drugs to preparing submissions for new drug applications.

Scientists study the effects of drugs on the brain and behavior. What they learn helps in the development of programs for preventing drug abuse and for helping individuals recover from addiction. Further research helps transfer these ideas into practice in communities like Edmond.

McCann said scientists now know addiction is a treatable disease that affects both the brain and behavior. Addiction is a brain disease because drugs change the brain, its structure and how it works.

Dr. Stan Ardoin, medical director for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said addiction is triggered in vulnerable individuals by stressors in the environment and exposure to substances.

McCann said despite the widely accepted scientific evidence a percentage of individuals still think a lack of willpower is the issue.

Nichols said individuals can be empowered by obtaining a greater understanding of addiction and substance abuse.

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