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Surprising Science

The Disease Called Drug Addiction

We criminalize drug addicts in this country. To Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, that would be equivalent to putting someone with Parkinson’s in jail. Drug addiction is a disease that changes the chemistry of your brain, and makes you unable to kick the cravings. It all stems from dopamine, a powerful drug that controls pleasure and leads you to make decisions that aren’t truly benefitting your body.

Volkow walks us through the reasons that different drugs trigger addictions and why certain people are more prone to addiction than others. It’s not only about genetics- nurture plays a key role in making someone vulnerable to the disease.

She also launches into a discussion on the human’s propensity for food addictions, a relationship more complex than that of drugs. Is it possible to transfer a love of chocolate to a desire for lettuce and running? It’s more complicated than you think.


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