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NIDA

Bringing the Power of Science to Bear on Drug Abuse and Addiction

1: NIDA is dedicated to bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction

Bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is part of the National Institutes of Health and is dedicated to bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction.

When a person first thinks about trying drugs, it is usually a voluntary decision. “Maybe I should see what it’s like... just this once,” you might think. Or a friend dares you. Or you just want to feel good or forget your troubles. Most drugs of abuse - including nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and heroin - activate a part of the brain called the reward system, and that makes you feel good. But just for a little while.

Drug abuse has serious consequences. The most serious consequence is that prolonged drug use can change the brain in fundamental and long-lasting ways. Eventually, it becomes difficult to deerive pleasure from other normal activities, such as sports, food, or sex.

After repeated drug use, you reach a point when deciding to use drugs is no longer voluntary. Scientists have proof now that drugs literally change your brain. It’s as if a “switch” goes off in the brain. It is during this transformation process that a drug abuser becomes a drug addict.

Addiction is a chronic relapsing disease characterized by compulsive, often uncontrollable, drug seeking and drug use in the face of negative consequences. Drug addicts need professional help and treatment to help them cope with these changes and possibly change the brain back to normal.

This page was last updated January 2007

NIDA Notes: The Latest in Drug Abuse Research

Teaching Packets

Explores the consequences of drug abuse on the brain and body and introduces the topics of prevention, and treatment.