Monday, 20 August 2007

This is your brain after using drugs for a long time

"Brain Dysfunction blamed for Addiction" (Courier Mail)

Okay, avoiding for a moment that "blamed" in the headline, with all its nice little connotations, the gist is that "researchers" (doesn't even say which department they're from) at the University of Melbourne have found an under performing frontal cortex in people with long-term addictions, resulting in a reduced ability to control impulses, reduced self-control overall, therefore reduced ability to counteract addictive behaviours or substances.

Now, there have been many arguments over the years about "addictive personalities", many of them with a physiological component, that all seem to boil down to an individual finding a behaviour or substance that balances the negative effects of a slightly off-kilter physiology or a crap life. And for various reasons, including people grabbing the wrong end of the stick and accusing such theorists of wanting to excuse behaviours that they're just trying to explain, many of them are decidedly controversial and non-PC.

So this is a study I like - it finds something that correlates with known behavioural or cognitive issues which can all be seen to have a bearing on the behaviour in question - i.e. addiction. My immediate question, however, is: Is this a predisposition or a consequence of neurological injury caused by long-term intake of toxic psychotropic substances? The study was looking at drug users not, e.g. sex addicts or compulsive gamblers, and we know all too well the ways in which long-term usage of licit or illicit drugs can mess with your grey (and white) matter.

Well, apparently that's the next line of research, and about time too I say, although I'm not sure how they plan to tell if it's injury or a bad roll of the genetic dice (maybe looking for more global damage?)

I am, however, overjoyed to see that perhaps there will be meaningful behavioural strategies used for addiction, instead of strategies based upon untested theories or ideologies.

And if anybody does think that I'm trying to find excuses for people: grow up.

The big question is not whether somebody has a mitigating factor for behaviour, it's their reaction - to seek (or accept) help or to continue with behaviour which is destructive to their physiology, finances and relationships and which may, by the time they're offered help, have got them in serious trouble with the law.

No comments:

Search This Blog