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Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction

Introduction

Why study drug abuse and addiction?

Abuse and addiction to alcohol, nicotine, and illegal substances cost Americans upwards of half a trillion dollars a year, considering their combined medical, economic, criminal, and social impact.1,2,3. Every year, abuse of illicit drugs and alcohol contributes to the death of more than 100,000 Americans, while tobacco is linked to an estimated 440,000 deaths per year.4,5

People of all ages suffer the harmful consequences of drug abuse and addiction.
  • Babies exposed to legal and illegal drugs in the womb may be born premature and underweight. This drug 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 of 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 and 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 August 2010

Featured Publication

Featured Publication

Drugs, Brains, and Behavior - The Science of Addiction

As a result of scientific research, we know that addiction is a disease that affects both brain and behavior.

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