When teenagers fail to reject drugs, Dr. Nora Volkow blames their brains, not their willpower, reports the Associated Press. Age matters when it comes to drug abuse. It’s an evolving view of addiction that Volkow brings as head of the federal National Institute on Drug Abuse. Volkow, great-granddaughter of assassinated Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, achieved acclaim by discovering that cocaine was neurotoxic, a radical notion in the early 1980s.
Since then, Volkow, 49, has studied alcohol, nicotine, heroin, methamphetamine, even overeating to uncover the brain circuitry that underpins addiction. Now, three years into directing the government’s $1 billion anti-drug research program, Volkow is channeling new energy into determining exactly how the brains of addicts and those who never get hooked differ, so scientists can develop better ways to prevent and treat drug abuse. Volkow is showing that addiction “has to be seen as a health issue as well as a criminal or social justice issue,” says her predecessor, Alan Leshner, now chief of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.