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Addiction Science

Brief Description

Many people do not understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. It is often mistakenly assumed that drug abusers lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop using drugs simply by choosing to change their behavior. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting takes more than good intentions or a strong will. In fact, because drugs change the brain in ways that foster compulsive drug abuse, quitting is difficult, even for those who are ready to do so. Through scientific advances, we know more about how drugs work in the brain than ever, and we also know that drug addiction can be successfully treated to help people stop abusing drugs and lead productive lives.  Learn more

Explaining Addiction

Why Are Drugs So Hard to Quit

Anyone Can Become Addicted to Drugs

Featured Publications

Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction (DrugFacts)

Revised November 2012.
Provides an overview of drug abuse and addiction, including what happens in the brain during drug abuse, why some people become addicted and others don’t, and the importance of prevention. En Español

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Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction

Published April 2007. Revised August 2010.
Provides scientific information about the disease of drug addiction, including the many harmful consequences of drug abuse and the basic approaches that have been developed to prevent and treat the disease. En Español

Equips teachers and students in grades 9 through 12 with interactive curriculum on the neurobiology of the brain as a result of drug abuse and addiction.

The Brain: Understanding Neurobiology Through the Study of Addiction

Published January 2000. Revised March 2010.
Equips teachers and students in grades 9 through 12 with interactive curriculum on the neurobiology of the brain as a result of drug abuse and addiction.

Genetic variation in COMT influences the harmful effects of abused drugs graph

Genetics of Addiction (Topics in Brief)

Revised April 2008.
Explores the research advances regarding genetics and addiction, discusses the potential role of the environment in the disease, and the promise of personalized medicine.

Publication Cover

Bringing the Power of Science to Bear on Drug Abuse and Addiction (Teaching Packets)

Revised January 2007.
The fifth in a 5-part series, summarizes the science behind drug abuse and addiction, reviews the harmful consequences of drug use, and poses the question of whether it is worth the risk.

Other Resources

Past information on many drugs of abuse is available on our Archives site.

This page was last updated December 2012