It's Chemistry, Not Character
Transforming the Treatment of Opioid Addiction
Candid Conversations highlights important developments in science, policy and business and is produced by Scientific American’s Custom Media Division.
Once viewed as a moral failing of artsy types and the economically doomed, heroin addiction can no longer be marginalized as an “inner city problem.” Mainlining has gone mainstream. Heroin is more available than ever and considered by some as just another party drug. The addict’s new face is suburban and spans the income spectrum. It might belong to the star on your high school football team or the girl next door—the subject of a recent 60 Minutes segment called “Heroin in the Heartland.”
As this epidemic grows, so does the scientific understanding of addiction. Nevertheless, many experts and the media keep neglecting to mention the most important new knowledge: Traditional rehabilitation fails most heroin addicts, but new medicines succeed. In short, addiction comes from chemistry—the DNA-driven activity in the brain—not a character flaw, and this can be treated, like other chronic illnesses. Unfortunately, social and political obstacles often keep the patients from the drugs that they need, and the healthcare system largely fails to invest in ongoing R&D to expand the medical arsenal aimed at this addiction.
Produced by Scientific American’s Custom Media Division with funding from and in collaboration with Braeburn Pharmaceuticals
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