Wednesday, June 15, 2011

pawn in the endless war that must never be won...,

NYTimes | From heroin and cocaine to sex and lies, Tetris and the ponies, the spectrum of human addictions is vast. But for Dr. Nora D. Volkow, the neuroscientist in charge of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, they all boil down to pretty much the same thing.

She must say it a dozen times a day: Addiction is all about the dopamine. The pleasure, pain and devilish problem of control are simply the detritus left by waves of this little molecule surging and retreating deep in the brain.

A driven worker with a colorful family history and a bad chocolate problem of her own, Dr. Volkow (pronounced VOHL-kuv), 55, has devoted her career to studying this chemical tide. And now, eight years into her tenure at the institute, the pace of addiction research is accelerating, propelled by a nationwide emergency that has sent her agency, with a $1.09 billion budget, into crisis mode.

The toll from soaring rates of prescription drug abuse, including both psychiatric medications and drugs for pain, has begun to dwarf that of the usual illegal culprits. Hospitalizations related to prescription drugs are up fivefold in the last decade, and overdose deaths up fourfold. More high school seniors report recreational use of tranquilizers or prescription narcotics, like OxyContin and Vicodin, than heroin and cocaine combined.

The numbers have alarmed drug policy experts, their foreboding heightened by the realization that the usual regulatory tools may be relatively unhelpful in this new crisis.

As Dr. Volkow said to a group of drug experts convened by the surgeon general last month to discuss the problem, “In the past, when we have addressed the issue of controlled substances, illicit or licit, we have been addressing drugs that we could remove from the earth and no one would suffer.”

But prescription drugs, she continued, have a double life: They are lifesaving yet every bit as dangerous as banned substances. “The challenges we face are much more complex,” Dr. Volkow said, “because we need to address the needs of patients in pain, while protecting those at risk for substance use disorders.”

In other words, these drugs must be somehow legal and illegal, encouraged yet discouraged, tightly regulated yet easily available.

The experts are looking to the institute for scientific tools that might help by loosening the tight bonds between pain relief and addiction in the brain.

1 comments:

nanakwame said...

Celebrating 40 years in the war on drugs

40M Total drug war-related arrests since 1971
11M + App number of arrests for marijuana-related offenses since 1980
$500 - Cost per second to government
15B - US Budget outlay for 2011-2012
$1T - estimated cost of prosecuting the war on drugs for 40 years - AP report
www.metro.us - June 15, 20011

"The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world."