Addiction is a chronic disease that can destroy the lives of individuals and their families. Researchers are teasing apart the complex neural, genetic and behavioural factors that drive people to lose the ability to resist damaging substances, and are looking for ways to treat, reverse or even prevent addictions. Read more in this special Outlook supplement I edited for Nature.
There are signs that strategies to address prescription drug abuse are starting to work but will an increase in illegal drug use be the payoff?
Prescription medicines can be a powerful life saving tool, but they carry with them a danger of abuse. The euphoric effects of prescription painkillers, as well as stimulants and drugs designed to treat anxiety and trouble sleeping, can encourage some people to use them recreationally, with potentially fatal results. Others who start using these drugs therapeutically can go on to become addicted.
The problem is a huge one. In the United States, drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths, eclipsing even car accidents. And the UK joins the United States in the grim statistic that overdose deaths from prescription opioids outnumber those from heroin and cocaine combined. A variety of approaches are being used to tackle the problem, including educating prescribers, monitoring prescriptions, introducing drug formulations that are tough to abuse and, ultimately, treating addicted individuals. Read more in The Pharmaceutical Journal.