- Published: November 26, 2012
One of the most commonly discussed and prevalent forms of crime comes from the use of illegal drugs and drug addiction. Drug uses and addictions come in many forms of variations, from cocaine and amphetamines to nicotine and opiates. It is also important to recognize that there are different definitions of drug and substance addiction, ranging from dependence to abuse to craving. From the legal and scientific perspective that emphasizes on the potential of personalized rehabilitation, the most important question to ask is: what is the mechanism of drug addiction, and can we reverse it, or even prevent it?
One review article on New England Journal of Medicine discusses the mechanisms of drug addition in detail. One specific section that drew my attention talks about the possible genetic factors that influence addictive behaviors. Some of the specific examples that the section mentions include the following: carriers of aldehyde dehydrogenase tend to develop alcohol dependence more; individuals with defective cytochrome P450 that impair nicotine metabolism tend to smoke fewer cigarettes.
According to an article from Neuron, scientists were able to locate the sites of neurotransmission responsible for such reinforcing effects of drugs, such as the ventral tegmental area for opiates (dopamine as neurotransmitters), and the nucleus accumbens for cocaine (dopamine as neurotransmitters). Ideally, with the practical application of this knowledge, the legal system should be able to efficiently help the drug addicts rehabilitate. But why is it not as common as we think they are? One main issue is the limited involvement of the pharmaceutical companies and industry. They might be able to develop such medications, but the limitation comes from the fact that this might not be economically lucrative or beneficial, so the companies do not really have incentives.
What are some of the ways that we can prevent the onset of drug addiction behaviors? One way is to accelerate the engagement of pediatricians and family physicians, or even including addiction medicine to the curriculum of medical school, to facilitate early detection.
. Volkow, ND; Li, TK. Drug addiction: the neurobiology of behaviour gone awry. Nature. http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v5/n12/pdf/nrn1539.pdf
. Koob, GF; Sanna, PP; Bloom, FE. Neuroscience of Addiction. Neuron. Vol. 21, 467-476, 1998. http://188.8.131.52/boundary/addiction/neuroscience_of_addiction.pdf