Science of Addiction

Science of Addiction

Many people do not understand why individuals become addicted to drugs or how drugs  change the brain to foster compulsive drug abuse. They mistakenly view drug abuse and addiction as strictly a social problem and may characterize those who takes drugs as morally weak.

Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use despite the harmful consequences to the individual who is addicted and to thos around them. Addiction is a brain disease because the abuse of drugs leades to changes in the structure and function of the brain.  Although for most people, the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary, over time the changes in the brain casued by repeated drug abuse can affect a person's self control and ability to make sound decisions, and at the same time send intense impulses to take drugs.

Research shows that combining addiction treatment medications, if available, with behavioral therapy is the best way to ensure success for most patients. Treatment approaches that are tailored to each patient's drug abuse pattern and any co-occurring medical, psychiatry, and social problems can lead to sustained recovery and a life without drug abuse.


How Topiramate Works (video)


Neuroscientific advances promise the development of even more promising medicines.  Pharmacogenetic approaches are ongoing to understand the underpinnings of differential therapeutic responses to various medicines, and to bring forward the era of individualized treatment to the field of alcoholism.

With appropriate pharmacotherapy and psychosocial therapy, treatment for addictive disorders can be initiated whilst the individual is perhaps still currently drinking heavily, using drugs or opioids.

Abstinence still remains the traditional goal for treatment of addictive disorders. It is now clear that reducing the frequency of the use of alcohol or drugs leads to a major decrease in addictive-related consequences and an improvement in quality of life.

For more information on the science behind addiction and more about our research findings, please click on the links below to read some of our publications.


The Biologic Basis of Alcohol Dependence

Medications to Treat Alcoholism

Understanding and Treating Alcohol Dependence

Review of Treatment for Cocaine Dependence

Office Based Maintenance Treatment for Opioid Dependence