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What is Addiction Science?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2016
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Addiction science is the study of addiction and its impact on the brain and the body. A number of colleges and universities have addiction science programs that perform research and other work in this area, as do government agencies interested in public health matters. The research being performed on addiction can be applied in a number of different ways ranging from developing better addiction treatment programs to training law enforcement officers to work more effectively and safely with people who have addiction or substance abuse problems.

Historically, addiction was often regarded as a personal or moral failing. In the 20th century, research began to demonstrate that this is not the case, and that in fact addiction is tied in with a number of very complicated factors. One aspect of addiction science involves the study of the interaction of addictive substances with the brain and the body. Research shows that a number of addictive compounds do things like stimulating the pleasure centers of the brain, explaining both the effects of such compounds and the reason that people grow dependent on them. Over time, people can become desensitized, requiring more and more stimulation and leading to increased dependence on certain substances.

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Addiction science has also explored the role of genetics in addiction. Certain families appear to have more addictive traits than others and some specific genes have been linked with addiction. Some individuals have high numbers of genes that contribute to addiction and may find it difficult to avoid substance dependency and abuse. Environment also appears to be involved. Some addition science studies explore topics like age of first exposure, diet, stress, and community factors that may be involved in addictive processes.

The goal of addiction research is to learn more about the biological processes of addiction, to determine why some people appear more susceptible to it than others, and to develop effective treatment programs for people struggling with addiction. Addiction science also includes a study of how community involvement in the form of outreach, education, and law enforcement programs can hinder or help the development of addiction. Being aware of the biology of addiction can help researchers understand how to combat it in society.

People interested in addiction science include doctors, substance abuse counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists, members of law enforcement, and educators. This work includes aspects of biology, pharmacology, neurology, sociology, and many other disciplines that allow people to research the role of drugs in the body, as well as in society.

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pleonasm
Post 3

@clintflint - It's difficult to tell though, because we know that nicotine gets stored in fat for years, so it's possible that you are still experiencing a delayed reaction to it whenever you feel like smoking and your brain just translates that into a longing for the things you associate with smoking.

My family has always been lucky enough to be able to give up addictions relatively easily. I and my siblings have all been smokers and then given it up completely after a few years. My grandfather once told me that he did the same thing. There are other stories that are similar in my family.

I think this might be a genetic gift, to be honest, because I completely

understand how serious addiction can be to those who are more vulnerable to it. But I also think this points to a problem with brain chemistry, rather than anything to do with developing habits. Because I am actually a fairly weak-willed person in a lot of ways. But I still gave up smoking quite easily.
clintflint
Post 2

@umbra21 - I've always wondered how effective that sort of thing could actually be when so much of addiction is behavioral and based around habit. I know when I gave up smoking I didn't even really like the effect of nicotine. It was the social aspect of smoking and the comfort of being able to do something with my hands that I missed.

And I still miss those sometimes even though I'm sure my brain is completely over nicotine by now. I don't think magically wiping your system clear of a particular drug will completely cure you. You have to want to quit and be able to keep your reasons very clear in your head, as well as changing your habits as deliberately as possible.

umbra21
Post 1

I hope we gradually learn more and more about this, because addiction is responsible for so much suffering in the world. My sister was addicted to meth for a long time and it destroyed almost every part of her life, including her relationships and her health.

Every now and then I hear about the science of addiction and how they may have found a chemical or method that could stop people from being addicted to something. I just hope one day that these will pan out.

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