Jun 26, 2017

Treating addiction by focusing on the brain

Associated Press

Technology and science has made it much easier to become addicted to products that allow us to ingest nicotine and opioids, but neuroscience can be just as easily harnessed to help the human brain cope with addiction as well, researchers argue in Science.

Their main point: Nearly all of the available treatments for opioid addiction treat it as a short-term problem with the goal of detoxing the system and coping with withdrawal symptoms. The health care system and policy support that approach, but addiction is a more lasting disorder that changes the brain. Treatment, the authors write, should be focused on long-term interventions such as support groups (like Alcoholics Anonymous), treatment with methadone or buprenorphine, "sober living" residencies and extended case monitoring.

The backdrop: On Tuesday, a presidential task force will issue recommendations for how to deal with a growing opioid epidemic that is decimating families and communities in parts of the U.S. On average, 91 people die in America every day from opioid overdoses. The NIH recently announced a research push to address the nation's opioid crisis.

What they found: Researchers looked at how technology and science has made it easier for addiction to take hold. For instance, cigarettes were once hand-rolled and harsh in the 19th century, making it hard work for someone to smoke. Now, big tobacco companies can roll 20,000 cigarettes on a factory floor in under a minute, and lace the cigarettes with flavors to make it far easier on the lungs as the smoke is inhaled. Likewise, opioids – once confined to small parts of the population – are now widespread and easily available.

But just as science has made addiction easier, it can also chart new paths away from addiction as well. As researchers better understand the ways in which addiction takes hold of our brains, programs and therapies can mute or even block the addiction pathways in our brains.

Go deeper

19 mins ago - World

Kremlin says Trump discussed inviting Russia to G7 in call with Putin

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at their bilateral meeting at the G20 Osaka Summit 2019, in Osaka, Japan in 2019. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on Monday about Trump's plans to expand September's G7 meeting in Washington to include Russia, according to the Russian government's readout of the call.

The big picture: The phone call between the two leaders, which the Kremlin says was initiated by Trump, comes amid six consecutive days of mass unrest in the U.S. over police brutality and racial inequality. The White House confirmed the call took place and said a readout was forthcoming.

Facebook employees stage "virtual walkout"

Screenshot of an image some Facebook employees are adding to their internal profiles, with or without the hashtag, to protest company policy.

"Dozens" of Facebook employees staged a "virtual walkout" Monday over the company's decision not to take action against President Trump's provocative messages in the face of nationwide protests against police violence, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: While Twitter added fact-check labels and hid the president's most inflammatory tweet — "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" — Facebook has said Trump's statements do not violate its policies, and that the platform aims to promote free speech.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Trump lashes out at governors, urges them to "dominate" protesters

President Trump berated the nation’s governors in a video teleconference call Monday, calling many of them "weak" and demanding tougher crackdowns on the protests that erupted throughout the country following the killing of George Floyd, according to multiple reports.

The big picture: Trump blamed violence on the "the radical left" and told the governors, who were joined by law enforcement and national security officials, that they have to "dominate" protesters and "arrest people" in order to bring an end to the unrest.