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Drug Addiction As A Psychobiological Process

9066 words - 36 pages

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 summarized in the following sections.
The arguments presented in the chapter are tenable, but they represent only
one of several perspectives used in studying addiction. The terminology and
even some aspects of the empirical data are the topics of scientific debate.
The objective of this chapter is not to provide a balanced presentation of
controversial issues, but rather to develop a unifying framework for
understanding the psychobiological basis of addiction. Concept of Addiction
Before proceeding with an examination of the mechanisms underlying drug
addiction, it is necessary to define the term addiction and to examine the main
characteristics of drug addiction. Delineation of the salient attributes of
addiction helps to establish the criteria that must be fulfilled in a valid animal
model and helps to determine what biological processes are relevant to the
etiology of addiction. Issue of Terminology Drug addiction refers to a
situation where drug procurement and...

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