What Science Tells Us about Beating Addiction

Nora D. Volkow and Alan Weil at Spotlight Health

Scientists are producing more and more data on the brain’s activity around addiction to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. But some argue the science isn’t being put to work. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 8.2 percent of the US population over age 12 has some sort of substance use disorder. And the costs associated with substance use, including lost productivity and health costs, are about $600 billion annually.

Scientific research shows addiction is a biological process, where repeated use of a substance actually changes the brain’s makeup. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, says biology ensures that we do behaviors necessary for survival. “We eat, in part, because it is reward, we procreate because sex has a rewarding component. The [drugs] directly hijack those survival behaviors.”

With all the research behind substance abuse, little is being done to integrate it into treatment, says Gary Mendell, CEO of Shatterproof. He says there are few offerings for those dealing with addiction. “From 1938 until basically now, the treatment system in the United States, which is about 13,000 treatment programs, is basically AA (Alcoholics Anonymous).”

To see the full session from Spotlight Health, click here.


AITG: What Every American Should Know

What is American Identity today? What terms best fit a modern American Language? In this podcast, Eric Liu of the Citizen and American Identity Program at the Aspen Institute asks three top thinkers what Americans should know to be civically and culturally literate. The program is also asking the public. Subscribe to the Aspen Ideas to Go Podcast on iTunes or find it on other popular podcasting services.


Advice from Women who Lead

Today, there are 104 women serving in the United States Congress, 20 female heads of government or state around the world, and 23 female chief executives in the S&P 500. From journalists to social advocates to business leaders, women are leading in their own ways and on their own terms. What do these leaders have on their minds? What can we learn from them? In honor of Women's History Month, we're highlighting this session. Watch the full session here.


Looking Ahead to the Festival

Zika and infectious diseases will be discussed in Spotlight Health, the opening segment of the 2016 Aspen Ideas Festival. Ahead of the Festival, we’re reading What Ebola crisis can teach us about Zika.


Consider This: “In Brazil, in an eerie reminder of some of the most tragic missteps of the Ebola epidemic, more than 220,000 troops have been deployed to hand out 4 million leaflets.” –CNN


Read more about a study that shows Zika ‘might cause’ Guillain-Barré syndrome.



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