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Chapter 14. What Does the Future Hold?

14. What Does the Future Hold?

There are many themes in this book. One is that a drug addict is someone who has lost (at least some) control over his or her ability to seek and take drugs, and this loss of control leads to distress and problems for the drug user. Almost all drugs that humans abuse are also self-administered by animals, suggesting that drug taking is an innate drive that is widespread in many species. Moreover, many studies show that drug taking is involved with specific physiological systems in the brain. Because drug taking adversely alters brain chemistry, we can develop medications to reverse these negative changes; in fact, many useful medications have already been developed. Drug abuse produces long-lasting (months to years) changes in the brain, suggesting that these changes are the basis of the chronic and relapsing nature of drug addiction. Abstaining from drugs for a week or a month after long-term use is probably not enough time for the brain to return to normal and heal. The injury to the vulnerable brain increases the drive to take drugs. Drugs act through powerful systems in the brain, systems that have evolved to ensure the survival of our species. Drugs gain control of these natural systems and cause unnatural adaptations and effects. It is believed these factors, taken together, form the basis of drug addiction, a brain disorder or disease. Although many people can walk away from drugs on their own, many can’t. Some individuals are more vulnerable than others, and, realizing that they need help, seek professional treatment. Treatment for drug abuse is effective when done either voluntarily or by mandate, and it is geared to the specific needs of the individual. Great progress has been made in this field, and more is needed. But, where is all this taking us? What does the future hold?


  

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