Scientists searching for answers about the genesis and treatment of addiction only recently have had the tools – such as technology that provides a real-time view of brain function – to unravel them, reports USA Today. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found last year that of Americans 12 and older, nearly 8.4 million were addicted to alcohol and nearly 5 million were addicted to other drugs. About 1.4 million were addicted to both. Advances in neurobiology mean that “we have enormous knowledge now of what’s going on” in addicts’ brains, says George Koob of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Ca. Koob is hopeful that new insights into the mechanisms of addiction will lead to new treatments and reduced suffering.
If you want to know whether a child will turn to alcohol or other drugs for a quick fix, look at his parents, says Mark Willenbring of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. If the parents are abusing drugs, chances are high that the child will, too, Willenbring says. Having only one or no parent in the home or a psychiatric illness also raises a child’s risk of addiction.