Addiction is a significant problem for society. According to statistics from the US government, 9.3% of the US population over the age of 11 needed treatment for a drug or alcohol abuse problem in 2009. Only 11% of those needing treatment received it (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2011). The total cost for substance abuse is estimated to be approximately $700 billion per year in the United States (National Institute of Drug Abuse, Trends and Statistics, n.d.). Substance abuse and addiction are difficult conditions to successfully treat. For example, the 12-month relapse rate among alcoholics is more than 60%, and it is nearly 75% for smokers and heroin users (see Figure 5.13 in Brain and Behavior). One possible reason for treatment failure is the powerful way in which addictive substances affect the brain. Most addictive drugs appear to tap into the brain’s reward circuit, so that any behavior (taking a drug) preceding the psychological experience of reward is strongly reinforced. Beyond substance addictions, there are also behavioral addictions to activities such as gambling, running, eating, and Internet use. Research suggests that these behaviors tap into the same reward circuitry of the brain as do addictive substances.
If addiction is a product of brain activity, it is logical that the treatment also must involve some change in brain activity. In fact, there are several forms of biologically based drug treatments, including the use of agonist drugs that mimic some of the addictive drugs’ effects (e.g., methadone for heroin addiction), as well as other substances that alter activity in the reward system (such as baclofen for the treatment of alcoholism).
Despite the potential for treating drug addiction more successfully than programs involving abstinence alone, many individuals believe that the addict is responsible for his or her condition and that using another drug to treat addiction is akin to “cheating.” According to this philosophy, those who become addicted can be considered fully recovered only if they stop taking the drug or engaging in the behavior and never relapse.
In this Discussion, you will analyze the reward pathways of the brain and apply that understanding to both substance and behavioral addictions. You will then examine treatments for addiction and the associated advantages and disadvantages of these treatments.
To prepare for this Discussion:
- Review in Brain and Behavior the reward network of the brain and the biological basis (including the role of genes) of addiction and treatment of addiction.
- Consider treatment options for behavioral or substance addictions and evaluate the relative success of different treatment options.
With these thoughts in mind:
By Day 3
Post a description of the reward network of the brain, including the brain regions and neurotransmitters involved. Provide at least one example of how this reward network is beneficial to the survival of the individual or the species. Next, describe how this reward network is misappropriated by addictive substances or behaviors. Then, specifically, describe how at least one addictive substance or behavior makes use of this reward network. Finally, describe pharmaceutical treatment of addiction and at least one other form of treatment. Consider the success or relapse rates of each form of treatment (pharmaceutical and your chosen treatment form) and include in your argument references to the advantages and disadvantages of the different forms of therapy to treat addiction.
Support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources and any additional sources you identify using both in-text citations and complete references in APA format.