Mitchell Reports | July 03, 2012
>>> drug addiction baffles many people. abusers are often assumed to lack willpower or moral values , but science is telling us that addiction is far more complex than we think. quitting takes a lot more than good intentions. as head of the national institute on drug abuse , norra volkov is revolutionizing the way america views addiction as a disease, not a moral failing. this has huge implications for treatment. welcome. it's very good to meet you. tell me how should we think about drug abuse ? what is it scientifically that happens in the brain that makes us addicted to certain chemicals?
>> drugs can attract our attention because we are hardwired to favor immediate rewards so pleasurable things motivate our behaviors and that's how we ensure that we procreate but drugs directly can activate it so they trick ourselves into believing these are behaviors we need to do. people that are vulnerable for a variety of reasons, they can result in addiction and now we know, for example, that drugs directly affect the way that the brain functions , underpinning or ability to exert self-control.
>> does this affect our response to certain foods, for instance? let's talk about caffeine and coffee, chocolate, the other things that often we want to eat that we shouldn't.
>> i'm laughing but --
>> chocolate. me, too.
>> drugs can be -- drugs are extraordinary rewarding but certain foods can also be very rewarding. but drugs are more potent. therefore, the pathology that ensues through pathology that ensues to the loss of control develops much faster with drugs. but yes, certainly, these other rewards can lead to a state of poor control where the person no longer wants to -- nobody wants to be obese, highly stigmatized, and yet they cannot control the urge of eating. and this is driven in part in certain instances where there's not abnormality properties, but dealing with food.
>> how is this knowledge, all your studies on the brain, influence therapies and treatment modes?
>> well, it's to start with, by bringing addiction as a disease of the brain focus the responsibility of treatment into the health care system . that for the most part has ignored both the screening and prevention and has also ignored the responsibility in treating. so being able to document that this is a disease will hopefully engage the health care system .
>> all of this is so interesting. at the same time, we find more and more addiction and fewer resources available to people. how can we get the information, the research that you're doing at nih into the hands of general practitioners and other doctors?
>> the fact that you're interviewing me on addiction is a very strong start. to focus the attention of the impact of addiction , how much it's costing our nation and also very importantly that it can be prevented and that it can be treated. is a first alerting people, educating them so that they are then willing to put the resources necessary to do it.
>> it is a great pleasure to meet you. thank you so much.