Research Paper: Addiction

Pages: 10 (3225 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports - Drugs  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] It was quickly adopted for recreational purposes and it became to be widely abused. Within time due to some highly publicized acute reactions and fatal overdoses, stiff restrictions were placed on its use and it was ultimately removed from the market.

Two other drugs, Ecstasy and Crack Cocaine, appeared on the horizon following the demise of Quaaludes. The danger of Ecstasy was made apparent within a few short months after its introduction and it was quickly made illegal. Crack, however, proved to be far more problematic. Crack, because of its relatively low cost and ease of use, rapidly became extremely popular. Its introduction ushered in an entire new era of drug enforcement efforts that viewed crack cocaine usage as a new epidemic.

Obviously, if drug use was not a problem there would be no interest in studying its effects and adopting programs to assist those affected by it. But there have been attempts for many years to understand the nature of illicit drug abuse and addiction. Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and a founder of the nation's first medical school, expressed an early interest in drug abuse research. In the late 18th century there were few resources available to address the problem and drug abuse research was virtually non-existent until the tools available for measuring responses and the cellular biochemistry necessary to investigate the effects on the body was developed. Such technology was not available until the last few years and there is renewed hope that the causes behind drug abuse and addiction are now discoverable.

The funding of research into the causes and solutions to drug abuse and addiction has increased substantially since the end of the 1960s. As earlier noted, the 60s marked a significant increase in drug use and a corresponding increase in drug abuse and addiction. The 70s and 80s witnessed increased interest in rehabilitation and research relative to the causes of drug addiction and with increased interest came increased funding.

Today there is increased interest in drug research and society is now blessed with the tools necessary to perform this research but, as already noted, this has not always been the case. Nevertheless, as long as 200 years ago, the scientific community was working to isolate the causes of drug abuse and addiction. In the early 19th century morphine usage and addiction was a serious social problem and the scientific community worked diligently to isolate the addictive feature of morphine and to subsequently participate in the formation of public policy that would effectively control its use. These efforts resulted in a severe reduction in morphine addiction during this period and opened the door for participation between the scientific community and the community in an effort to address problems related to drug usage.

In the early twentieth century there were renewed concerns about drugs and addiction in the United States. As already noted, the federal government passed the Harrison Act and the Supreme Court determined that the federal government had an interest in preventing drug abuse and addiction and the government had the authority to pass legislation necessary to assist in this prevention. There was some concern expressed by the medical profession, however, in the government's involvement as there was growing sentiment that addiction was a physiological response and that the government's efforts at enforcing drug laws was counterproductive. Many argued that punishment for addiction was not the answer, treatment was. This was a debate that would continue for several decades.

Over the next fifty years there were only minimal efforts to conduct any research into the causes of addiction and drug abuse. The research that was done was conducted was unorganized and done under the auspices of underfunded research facilities and universities. There were no real advances during this period and there was real concern that a possible treatment for narcotics addiction and other drug treatments were not available.

The increased use of drugs that resulted from the social turmoil of the 1960s had an interesting effect. Although there was a new commitment by law enforcement to confront the rise in illicit drug use there was also a new attitude developing that believed that a move away from the punitive-deterrent philosophy and toward an atmosphere dedicated toward treatment was the preferable course of action. In 1962 the White House Conference on Drug Abuse led to the formation of the President's Commission on Narcotics and Drug Abuse (President's Advisory Commission on Narcotic and Drug Abuse, 1963). The report from such Commission advocated an approach more directed toward treating drug abuse as a disease and a sign of social deviance and that control of such problems were better treated through medical means and not through criminal punishment. As a direct outgrowth of this report, federally funded community mental health facilities began appearing throughout the country.

Another result of the Commission's report was the enactment of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act of 1970. This new legislation resulted in a lessening of the criminal penalties for crimes involving certain classes of drugs but it had a greater influence on the state level than it did nationally. On a national level drug usage and addiction was still a sensitive political issue but a number of states began the move toward decriminalization of marijuana and a number of other drugs.

Another commission report issued in 1973, advocated for increased government sponsored research in the area of drug use. This report suggested that such research should include studies into the patterns of drug use and its consequences, the social responses to drug use, the effect of the legal system on drug use and enforcement, and, finally, a review and evaluation of the available treatment and rehabilitation programs. The reaction to this Commission's report signaled the most comprehensive funding effort directed at drug abuse and addiction in the history of the nation.

Working concurrently with the efforts funded by the U.S. Congress from 1949 to the present has been the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Although the efforts funded by the U.S. Congress had a significant impact on addiction and drug research, the NIMH has been working in the background since 1949 on issues related to narcotic, alcohol, and general drug usage and has been the main source of drug research over that period. The NIMH has since evolved into the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. These two organizations have assumed the primary responsibility for monitoring the direction of drug use, abuse and addiction in the United States but, like all government agencies has had to battle to maintain its funding.

The attitudes of the professional community in regard to the treatment of drug use and addiction have changed drastically over the years. The battle between those who view drug use and addiction as a medical condition and, therefore, deserving of treatment and those who view it as socially deviant behavior and deserving of punishment has been festering for years. Fortunately, research has disclosed that drug use and addiction has biological, behavioral and social components that merit treatment and that incarcerating abusers and addicts serves no social purposes. This is a position that has been adopted by every government sponsored research organization. According to the National Institute of Health: "One of NIDA's most important achievements has been the use of science to clarify central concepts in the field of drug abuse...When NIDA began, correct approaches to drug policy and drug treatment were often thought to hinge on determining whether a particular drug was "physically addicting" or only "psychologically addicting." We now know that addiction has biological, behavioral and social components. It is best defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disorder characterized by compulsive, often uncontrollable drug craving, seeking, and use, even in the face of negative health and social consequences. NIDA-supported research has also shown that this compulsion results from specific drug effects in the brain. This definition opens the way for broad strategies and common approaches to all drug addiction (National Institute of Health, 1995)."

The history of drug abuse and addiction is a long one with many twists and turns. For most of man's history the subject has been greatly misunderstood and there has been little that can be done to provide relief to those afflicted with these problems. For too long the approach has been to incarcerate victims of these ailments but in recent years the attitude toward drug abuse and addiction has been transformed. With increased research and a more compassionate approach, a more enlightened attitude has developed. Despite decreased funding, treatment programs are beginning to make inroads into the resolving the problems associated with drugs. Treatment programs now include a variety of options including detoxification, therapy, support groups, and 12 step programs. These options are augmented by both pharmacological and behavioral programs and educational and vocational services. The availability of these varied services provides… [END OF PREVIEW]

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