Much of what we know about the human body and mind today came from hundreds of years of research in various areas. It is important that we continue to support scientific studies in order to further improve our health and wellbeing.
One area that has benefitted from the study of science in recent years is addiction treatment. We have gone from believing in the early 1900s that addicts were “morally flawed” and “lacking in will power”, to understanding that addiction is more of a disease that must be treated. We know that drug abuse becomes a problem for some people because of environmental or biological influences; if they come from a childhood full of drug exposure, or are caught up with the wrong group of friends they might be at greater risk. Researchers are also in the process of finding out how genetics play a role in the development of an addiction. It will be important to continue these types of studies to improve prevention and treatment techniques in the future.
Advances in Drug Prevention
Drug prevention programs are a part of most schools and community programs. We teach our kids to say no to drugs and alcohol because they can be harmful and become addicting. It would be beneficial, however, if we could predict which teens are more susceptible to addiction and therefore, which ones to target. If we were able to determine through genetic studies who is more likely to become addicted to a substance, we could put more energy and resources into helping them stay sober.
Advances in Treatment
On the other end of the issue, addiction treatment has made huge advancements in the past few decades. Most of this is thanks to scientific research. We can now tell by brain scans why the 12 Steps program of Alcoholics Anonymous is so successful. Treatment professionals now have the scientific evidence to support certain treatment program methods, so that they can focus on the ones that work. Studies have also found new medications to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings, in order to make recovery a little easier and more successful.
Using the Knowledge
We can be proud of the knowledge we possess today because of the hard work of scientists of the past and present. For example, we now know that prevention is important, but so is treatment. In fact, several studies show that for every dollar spent for treatment, seven health care dollars are saved because of reduced accidents, medical complications and injuries, and improvements in attendance, performance and behavior in the workplace. (1)
We would do well to listen to the experts and invest in programs that prevent drug abuse or that treat it effectively. Rather than chase after ideas of how to punish drug behavior or force people into following the drug laws, we might benefit from following research and the proven evidence of programs that work.