Issues 74, March 2006:
What Is Addiction?
Addiction is the far end of a continuum that starts with the things we like, and continues through to things we can’t give up even when we know they are bad for us.
What Causes Addiction?
Is addiction due to disease, an individual’s moral weakness or social dislocation?
Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, but people who are sufficiently addicted keep finding excuses not to give up. Most of these involve denying the truth about how harmful smoking really is.
Thinking About Drinking: The Power of Expectations
Most of the effects of alcohol result from our expectations, not from the actual chemical. Someone who thinks they’re drinking alcohol, but isn’t, will act almost as drunk as someone who is drinking the real thing.
Alcohol and Teenagers: Risky Business
Alcohol causes much more harm in Australia than most people believe. There is poor public understanding of what levels of use are risky for young people.
Insights from a Drunk Worm
To separate the biological and social effects of alcohol it helps to study animals. The simple nervous systems of worms make them good subjects for study, and inebriated worms are providing fresh insights into how alcohol works on the nervous system and how alcoholics develop acute tolerance to alcohol.
While certain drugs have helped some people to break free from alcoholism, the success rate is disappointing. A better understanding of how these drugs act on the brain to suppress cravings could help us design better alternatives, particularly ones with more long-term success.
The Twelve Steps
Alcoholics Anonymous has provided a way for millions of people around the world to break their addiction to alcohol. Its methods have been adopted by a variety of similar organisations to deal with other forms of addiction.
Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription medicines have important health benefits. However, excessive use can lead to addiction and a range of very negative consequences. This is why they can only be legally obtained with a doctor’s prescription.
Opiates: Their History, Characteristics and Effects
Heroin is the most famous of a class of drugs called opiates. Although it is a relatively non-toxic drug, the ways in which it is used, what it is mixed with and the tendency of users to develop tolerance and dependence make heroin highly dangerous.
Amphetamines are the second most commonly used illegal drug in Australia, and are growing in both use and potency.
What’s The Deal on Dope?
Despite its image as a drug that many people have tried, cannabis can be associated with serious health and legal consequences. Certain people in high risk groups need to be particularly careful.
Why Is Drug Education Popular?
Drug and alcohol education is popular in schools, but less effective than we might hope or expect. If we want to change this situation we need to rethink the aims of the programs, which is easier for alcohol than for illicit drugs.
Harm Reduction: Dispelling the Myths
Legal and illegal drugs cause harm. Responses that focus exclusively on reducing drug use have failed. On the other hand, harm reduction strategies can and do work.
Abstinence Versus Harm Reduction
There are many ways to help people with drug addictions. It’s important to match the treatment with the needs of the individual.
The Most Dangerous Addiction of All
We consume more than the Earth can afford, and doing so does not even make us happy. Our behaviour shows all the hallmarks of an addiction, and if so it is one far more damaging than any drug.