- Written by Marcel Gemme
When looking at drug use, drug abuse, drug dependency and drug addiction, one finds that there are many divergent opinions about these terms and how they identify the drug-using behaviors of the public. Dr. Alan Leshner, the Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse for the U.S. Government, states: "There is a unique disconnect between scientific facts and the public's perception of drug addiction."
From a lecture in March 1998, at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Leshner explained how brain function is modified by drug use and how that change persists after an individual stops taking drugs. Addiction also has to be recognized as a result of many bio-behavioral factors.
Dr. Leshner said a user does not have control over the change when voluntary drug use becomes a compulsive addiction. He likens the change to a flip of a switch, although the change may be a result of opponent processes where changes have accumulated over time. Regardless, Dr. Leshner believes it is important that people understand that once addicted, a person is literally in a different brain state.
Anyone who has known and witnessed the changes in behavior and ethics in a person caught in the thralls of addiction can see the declining spiral of personal care and ethics, work ethics, emotional stability and generally, a feeling that one hardly recognizes the addicted person as being the same individual as they were before the drug use.
One very important point to know is that any drug use may set off these destructive behaviors in an individual and that using drugs “recreationally” is playing Russian Roulette with one’s life. The effects of these “poisons” on the brain and nervous system are always destructive, but the timeline of when the effects will be obvious varies from immediately to, sometimes, after years of “casual” use.
The scientists say that one of the tasks of treatment is bringing the brain to its original state or repairing the damage that these poisons can do. Some scientists believe that this can be done by introducing other drugs, then called medicines, into the delicate brain chemistry of someone suffering from drug addiction. That is what National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) is doing now as it begins to design new medications. "We have molecular targets," Dr. Leshner said.” We don't need serendipity." Serendipity is defined as “a natural gift for making useful discoveries by accident.”
However, don’t be fooled by the scientist since they have yet to discover any medications that restore a person to full and, more importantly, enthusiastic living. These “medicines” are always a tradeoff in giving up some of the beauties of life to keep the addict from using a more destructive drug. For a total cure, one should pursue getting the original poisons out of the body and letting the body’s natural repair mechanism restore the person to his original, functional and loving self.