Drug Addiction as a Psychobiological Process

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Drug Addiction as a Psychobiological Process The emphasis is on biological mechanisms underlying addiction, although some other factors influencing drug addiction will also be discussed. The presentation is limited primarily to psychomotor stimulants (e.g., amphetamine, cocaine) and opiates (e.g., heroin, morphine) for two reasons. First, considerable knowledge has been gained during the past 15 years regarding the neurobiological mechanisms mediating their addictive properties. Second, these two pharmacological classes represent the best examples of potent addictive drugs, and the elucidation of their addiction potential can provide a framework for understanding abuse and addiction to other psychotropic agents. Some psychologists and sociologists assert that animal studies do not model the important psychological variables governing drug addiction. They suggest that psychological processes critical in the etiology of addiction cannot be studied in animal models and/or that environmental influences important in producing an addiction cannot be duplicated in animal studies. This position is generally untenable, and animal models have been developed that accurately represent the primary processes involved in drug addiction. Support for the validity of these animal models will emanate from an understanding of the characteristics and the neural basis of drug addiction summarize... ... middle of paper ... ...endence (i.e., the periaqueductal gray region; see Figure 2) are not rewarding (Bozarth and Wise 1984). This neuroanatomical dissociation of reward and physical dependence shows that opiates can be rewarding without the development of physical dependence. The interpretation of research identifying the neural basis of opiate reward has been somewhat controversial, but considerable data suggest that opiates can activate the same brain reward system as that mediating reward from psychomotor stimulants. Direct support for this hypothesis comes from a study showing that ventral tegmental morphine injections can partially substitute for intravenous cocaine injections (Bozarth and Wise 1986).

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