Thursday, August 21, 2003

Update on addiction from the Director of the NIDA

A Scientist's Lifetime of Study Into the Mysteries of Addiction: " The co-morbidity of depression and smoking is close to 90 percent. Do you know what percentage of schizophrenic patients take cigarettes or take drugs? Eighty-five. "

In addition to my medical training, I have a longstanding special interest in addiction. So I was kind of annoyed to learn so many interesting things in this brief news story. I should have come across this material in my medical journals!! This says something about the way information is distributed, and how it fails to get separated from noise.

Addiction is fascinating. I personally think free will, and thus "responsibility", is an illusion; that which gives me a somewhat different perspective on addiction. (I'm hoping our historical concepts of responsibility will whither and die in the next 40 years. Assuming we're still around, something a bit more thoughtful may replace it.)

There's a note at the end of the article that should set sirens off:

"When we look at the brains of young methamphetamine abusers, they look like the brains of people 40 to 50 years older. So what drugs are inducing in your brain is aging. "

The only thing that will rescue our economy in 20 years is to slow the aging of the human brain. She's claiming we know of a drug that accelerates brain aging. So, DARN IT, we have the opportunity to experiment with brain aging in rats and see if we can find an agent that slows brain aging with metamphetamine exposure. Then we can see if the agent gives us clues to slow brain aging without metamphetamines.

Happily this probably occurred to a lot of people a long time ago.

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