En español
NIDA

Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction

Introduction

Why study drug abuse and addiction?

Abuse of and addiction to alcohol, nicotine, and illicit and prescription drugs cost Americans more than $700 billion a year in increased health care costs, crime, and lost productivity.1,2,3 Every year, illicit and prescription drugs and alcohol contribute to the death of more than 90,000 Americans, while tobacco is linked to an estimated 480,000 deaths per year.4,5 (Hereafter, unless otherwise specified, drugs refers to all of these substances.)

People of all ages suffer the harmful consequences of drug abuse and addiction.
  • Babies exposed to drugs in the womb may be born premature and underweight. This exposure can slow the child’s intellectual development and affect behavior later in life.6
  • Adolescents who abuse drugs often act out, do poorly academically, and drop out of school. They are at risk for unplanned pregnancies, violence, and infectious diseases.
  • Adults who abuse drugs often have problems thinking clearly, remembering, and paying attention. They often develop poor social behaviors as a result of their drug abuse, and their work performance and personal relationships suffer.
  • Parents' drug abuse often means chaotic, stress-filled homes, as well as child abuse and neglect. Such conditions harm the well-being and development of children in the home and may set the stage for drug abuse in the next generation.

How does science provide solutions for drug abuse and addiction?

Scientists study the effects that drugs have on the brain and on people’s behavior. They use this information to develop programs for preventing drug abuse and for helping people recover from addiction. Further research helps transfer these ideas into practice in our communities.

Medical, Social, Economic and Criminal Justice imagesThe consequences of drug abuse are vast and varied and affect people of all ages.

This page was last updated July 2014