Cannabis News Students for Sensible Drug Policy
  Lifetime of Study Into the Mysteries of Addiction
Posted by CN Staff on August 18, 2003 at 21:52:04 PT
By Mary Duenwald 
Source: New York Times  

NIDA Bethesda, Md. The road from Dr. Nora Volkow's childhood home in Mexico to the director's office at the National Institute on Drug Abuse here was surprisingly short and straight. From the time she entered medical school, at 18, Dr. Volkow devoted herself to the study of addiction.

A research psychiatrist known for her brain-imaging studies, she has published hundreds of papers, including many that demonstrate how dopamine, a brain chemical linked to pleasure and motivation, plays a major role in addictions of all kinds: to drugs, to alcohol and even, some say, to food.

Two oversize computer screens, perfect for viewing PET scan images, stand on the desk in her office; even with her new leadership role, she intends to continue her own research.

Dr. Volkow (pronounced VOHL-kahf), 47, grew up in Mexico City, the daughter of a fashion designer and a pharmaceutical chemist. Her father, the chemist, had come to Mexico as a boy with his grandfather Leon Trotsky, the Bolshevik leader expelled from the Soviet Union by Stalin.

She never met her famous great-grandfather, but she was raised in the house where he lived and died, assassinated in 1940 by a Stalinist agent. On weekends as a teenager, Nora Volkow and her three sisters led visitors on tours of the house, which is now a museum.

Now, as the first woman to lead the drug abuse agency, Dr. Volkow will direct the spending of government money on drug addiction research. On a rainy morning in June, she discussed her new challenge.

Q. What got you interested in drug abuse?

A. It always fascinated me, the ability of a drug to take over the process of what we call free will. I don't know of any other situation where an individual will give up their family, their profession, their money because of an addiction they cannot control. I wanted to know what drugs do to the brain.

Q. How can a drug change a person's motivation?

A. People say that addicts take drugs because the drug is pleasurable. And that is where the whole stigmatization of the drug-addicted person as being morally weak comes across.

I don't like the whole concept of pleasure because it gets oversimplified. It's motivation and drive. Drug addiction actually becomes a need. There's tremendous variability in predisposition for addiction. We know that genetics are a key element. Why? Because you can genetically engineer animals that will not become addicted no matter how much of a drug you give them. We also know that environment can be protective or can favor vulnerabilities.

Q. How does drug abuse affect free will?

A. People say the addict loses control. But that is not complete.

A drug-addicted person is motivated by the procurement of a drug. They may care for their family very much. It's just that the motivation to procure the drug becomes much more powerful than the motivation to be responsive to their family.

Q. What kind of environment is likely to protect people from addiction?

A. Parenting plays a key role. If you take nonhuman primates and rear them with peers they are much more likely to abuse alcohol than those that were reared by parents.

Having parents creates in them a sense of self-security. Whereas those that are reared by peers become very timid. And then they are much more likely to engage in aggressive acts and taking drugs. Parenting has very subtle effects that you couldn't have predicted.

Q. Do you consider drug addiction to be, in part, a biological problem?

A. People say if you consider drug addiction a disease, you are taking the responsibility away from the drug addict. But that's wrong. If we say a person has heart disease, are we eliminating their responsibility? No. We're having them exercise. We want them to eat less, stop smoking. The fact that we have a disease recognizes that there are changes, in this case, in the brain.

Drug addiction also has an impact on a wide variety of illnesses. Smoking and alcohol are linked with a higher incidence and prevalence of certain cancers. Marijuana too. 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. Look at heart disease, the No. 1 killer. What is one of the highest risk factors? Smoking.

Q. Drug abuse usually begins in adolescence. Do adolescents have a kind of predisposition to drug addiction?

A. We don't know. Our studies have been very much targeted in adults. We know certainly that the brain dopamine system changes dramatically during childhood and adolescence. But what is unique about the brain of adolescents that makes them particularly vulnerable to drugs? People have said, Well, maybe it's just a stage in their lives where they want to try everything. But why would they want to try everything? Obviously, it reflects something in the way that the brain is working.

Q. Is there any priority among the various drugs of abuse that need special attention?

A. If you look at it in sheer numbers, of course, cigarette smoking is an overwhelming priority. Cigarette smoking may also facilitate consumption of other drugs. Still nicotine is not like other drugs. For example, when animals have free availability of cocaine, the animals stop eating, they stop sleeping, and 100 percent of them die. If they have free availability of nicotine or, for the same matter, heroin, the animals survive.

Q. Is marijuana as dangerous as other drugs?

A. There's data that shows it's damaging to learning and memory, but then there's data that shows it's not. I've used imaging, and clearly we have shown that marijuana abusers have changes in certain areas of the brain involved with memory and motor coordination. So the idea that it is a benign drug, I don't think that it is so straightforward.

We all know marijuana users that are so apathetic. But nobody has done the studies to document the amotivational syndrome. If people are smoking marijuana, they should know what marijuana is doing to their brain. We need to do the work.

Q. How do you try to prevent drug abuse?

A. Providing access to knowledge definitely helps. A lot of people, and certainly adolescents, do not realize the consequences of being addicted to other things. People who are addicted are at the higher risk for suicide. They are at the higher risk for depressive disorders. Many of these drugs are toxic.

Take methamphetamine. 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. Do you want to be a 20-year-old with the brain of a 70-year-old? I think that message is very, very powerful.

Q. As the great-granddaughter of Leon Trotsky, did you grow up in a political household?

A. No. My father was so traumatized by what had happened to his family, he wanted to protect us from anything political. When I left Mexico to go to Paris I did one year in Paris as a medical student I was exposed to it because there's a lot of Trotsky's group in France. It was a very interesting experience.

But I've never become politically involved. If you want to be a scientist, you cannot allow politics to get in the way of your objectivity.

Note: A conversation with Nora Volkow.

Complete Title: A Scientist's Lifetime of Study Into the Mysteries of Addiction

Source: New York Times (NY)
Author: Mary Duenwald
Published: August 19, 2003
Copyright: 2003 The New York Times Company
Contact: letters@nytimes.com
Website: http://www.nytimes.com/

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Comment #6 posted by gloovins on August 19, 2003 at 16:48:58 PT
given that...
Q. Do you consider drug addiction to be, in part, a biological problem?

A. People say if you consider drug addiction a disease, you are taking the responsibility away from the drug addict. But that's wrong. If we say a person has heart disease, are we eliminating their responsibility? No. We're having them exercise. We want them to eat less, stop smoking. The fact that we have a disease recognizes that there are changes, in this case, in the brain. Drug addiction also has an impact on a wide variety of illnesses. Smoking and alcohol are linked with a higher incidence and prevalence of certain cancers. Marijuana too. 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. Look at heart disease, the No. 1 killer. What is one of the highest risk factors? Smoking.

Yep, than a natural conclusion would be make tabacco illegal, oh yeah, that would be impossible, right? Lets just keep that dangerous green herb illegal, yeah, right that makes alot of sense. I love the USA....yeah, right.



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Comment #5 posted by Lehder on August 19, 2003 at 07:15:37 PT
Prison
I am not versed in the drinking habits of simians so I'll stop right now trying to attack Volkow's work. She has a nice biography, and the article presents her as a dedicated and forthright worker; I have no immediate basis to impugn her integrity. But this statement,

>>People say if you consider drug addiction a disease, you are taking the responsibility away from the drug addict. But that's wrong. If we say a person has heart disease, are we eliminating their responsibility? No. We're having them exercise. We want them to eat less, stop smoking.

especially considering Volkow's new job, should further point out that victims of heart disease are not imprisoned as a part of their treatment.

As observer has so often said, it's about PRISON, not marijuana.

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #4 posted by Motavation on August 19, 2003 at 05:54:50 PT:

Lifetime of Study Into the Mysteries of Addiction
p.s. Nora Volkow was addicted her whole life to addiction said.

"Q. Drug abuse usually begins in adolescence. Do adolescents have a kind of predisposition to drug addiction?

A. We don't know. Suicide is always an option Nora



[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #3 posted by Motavation on August 19, 2003 at 05:48:28 PT:

*****STUPID GIRL*****
A research psychiatrist known for her brain-imaging studies, she has published "hundreds" of papers, including "many" that demonstrate how dopamine, a brain chemical linked to pleasure and motivation, plays a major role in addictions of all kinds: to drugs, to alcohol and even, some say, to food. Who say to food and sex?

Q. What got you interested in drug abuse?

A. It always fascinated me, the ability of a drug to take over the process of what we call free will. I don't know of "ANY" other situation where an individual will give up their family, their profession, their money because of an addiction they cannot control. I wanted to know what drugs do to the brain. What about love and/or sex, a la bill clinton?

Q. How can a drug change a person's motivation?

A. People say that addicts take drugs because the drug is pleasurable. And that is where the whole stigmatization of the drug-addicted person as being morally weak comes across. We can thank the "holy bible" for this way of thinking.

I don't like the "WHOLE" concept of pleasure because it gets oversimplified. It's motivation and drive. Drug addiction actually becomes a need. (So what if there's a need to acquire the drug and use it whenever then want?) There's "tremendous" variability in predisposition for addiction. "We" "know" that genetics are a key element.(Who is We? Show me proof!) Why? Because "You" can genetically engineer animals that will not become addicted no matter how much of a drug you give them. We also know that environment can be protective or can favor vulnerabilities. = Ability to manipulate her studies to favor her out comes.

Why can't you genetically engineer a human who won't be addicted no matter how much of a drug you give them? You can there called children. Q. How does drug abuse affect free will?

A. People say the addict loses control. But that is not complete.

A drug-addicted person is motivated by the procurement of a drug. They may care for their family VERY much. It's just that the motivation to procure the drug becomes much more "powerful" than the motivation to be "responsive" to their family. So the answer is arrest these drug addicted person's and seperate them from their families longer by putting them in prison. Personally, I get tired being around my family 24/7 and need times outs, but to each their own, I always say.

Q. What kind of environment is likely to protect people from addiction?

A. Parenting plays a key role. If you take "nonhuman" primates and "rear" them with peers they are much more likely(no percentage or specifics?) to abuse alcohol than those that were reared by parents. (junk science)

Having parents creates in them a sense of self-security. Whereas those that are reared by peers become very timid. And then they are much more likely to engage in aggressive acts and taking drugs. Parenting has "very" "subtle" =(nothing) effects that "You" couldn't have predicted.

Again see, We also know that environment can be protective or can favor vulnerabilities. I would argue the study didn't take into account how those "nonhuman primates" were treated.

Q. Do you consider drug addiction to be, in part, a biological problem?

A. People say if you consider drug addiction a disease, you are taking the responsibility away from the drug addict. But that's wrong. If we say a person has heart disease, are we eliminating their responsibility? No. We're having them exercise. We want them to eat less, stop smoking. The fact that we have a disease recognizes that there are changes, in this case, in the brain.

Q. Where are all these fat people the government is forcing to excercise?

Q. Drug abuse usually begins in adolescence. Do adolescents have a kind of predisposition to drug addiction?

A. We don't know. You don't know you stupid girl. I believe there is no addiction to drugs. The only thing I am addicted to, are the Ladies.

Q. Is there any priority among the various drugs of abuse that need special attention?

A. If you look at it in sheer numbers, of course, cigarette smoking is an overwhelming priority. Cigarette smoking may also facilitate consumption of other drugs. Still nicotine is not like other drugs. For example, when animals have free availability of cocaine, the animals stop eating, they stop sleeping, and 100 percent of them die. If they have free availability of nicotine or, for the same matter, heroin, the animals survive.

Good thing Humans aren't "Wild Animals". Can you imagine how many people starved to death because of the hundreds of thousands of kilos pure cocaine Pablo Escobar sent to America. Also, she doesn't cite these "study". I believe it was made up on the spot.

Q. Is marijuana as dangerous as other drugs?

A. There's data that shows it's damaging to learning and memory, but then there's data that shows it's not.

NOTICE how she says "data that shows ots damaging to learning and memory" The Question is is marijuana as dangerous as other drugs? The answer Alcohol, Tobacco, Cocaine, Heroin, Extacy, Oxicotin all kill, Marijuana(Cannabis) doesn't.

Q. How do you try to prevent drug abuse?

A. Providing access to knowledge definitely helps. Please see above "We don't know."



[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on August 19, 2003 at 05:32:04 PT
1984 is here
So true BGreen. Smoking and alcohol are "linked" to cancer? How many millions of tax dollars have to be flushed down the toilet for Americans to be told: People that don't take care of themselves will die sooner! The obvious health message should be: don't live like gluttonous pig! If you do, you'll die soon!

I mean, ANY behavior can be "linked" to cancer, once you throw causality out the window, as all of modern medicine seems to have done. When did the medical profession get the right to throw the scientific method into the garbage? I'll bet you could "link" hours of TV watched to heart disease. You could "link" shopping at Walmart to dying of heart disease. Why don't we demonize the TV networks and big-box stores and throw them in jail? We'd be a lot better off without "Survivor" then we would without cannabis.

And what is this crap about primates and parents? Yeah, I guess Nora's conclusions about non-speaking animals that run around eating berries in the trees apply to 14-year old kids playing video games out in some suburban subdivision. What a joke.

Folks, when you or your family gets sick, look after yourselves. Talk to as many other patients as you can. Do your own research. The self-righteous fascists took over our medical system long ago. Watch your back.

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #1 posted by BGreen on August 19, 2003 at 01:06:09 PT
Your Proof Is?
"Smoking and alcohol are linked with a higher incidence and prevalence of certain cancers. Marijuana too."

Wasn't your grandpappy's unfortunate expulsion and assassination the result of an evil government headed by an evil dictator that fed gov't propaganda to the masses in place of the truth?

Didn't that gov't ultimately fall?

Why are you working for the 21st century equivalent of stalinist russia?

Show me the proof of your foolish and blatantly false inclusion of cannabis with alcohol and tobacco as causing cancer.

Show me the bodies of the alcohol and tobacco victims and I'll be looking at dead bodies 24/7 for the rest of my life.

Show me the bodies of the cannabis victims and I'll never have to look at a single corpse.

Liar!

The Rev. Bud Green

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