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How Science has Revolutionalized the Understanding of Substance Use Disorders

For much of the past century researchers who studied substance misuse worked on discovering what lies beneath the nature of addiction despite being overshadowed by powerful myths and misconceptions about how addiction develops.  When scientists began to study addictive behavior in the 1930s, people diagnosed with addiction were thought to be morally flawed, lacking in willpower, or even overcome by evil spirits. Those widely held views shaped how substance misuse was treated and as a result society looked at addiction as a moral failing rather than a health problem, putting an emphasis on punishment and incarceration over prevention and treatment. Groundbreaking discoveries about the brain have totally changed our understanding of compulsive substance use and now we can respond to the problem effectively from a health perspective.

We know that addiction is a disease that affects both the brain and one’s behavior. We have identified biological and environmental factors which are linked to an increased risk for developing a substance use disorder in an individual.  Scientists are now researching for genetic variations which may lead to development and progression of the disease. The discovery of this knowledge can now be used to develop prevention, treatment, and recovery approaches that work.

Despite the advances in science and research concerning addiction and the brain, many people still do not understand why or how someone becomes addicted or dependent on a substance or how addiction changes the brain and impacts behavior. Increased understanding of the basics of addiction science will help people to make informed choices in their own lives and encourage them to support policies and programs in their communities which reduce the impact of addiction.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Nicotine: The Addictive Chemical in Tobacco Products

Nicotine Myths

Most people know that cigarettes and other tobacco products are addictive, but many people do not understand the role of nicotine in tobacco addiction, disease, and death. Nicotine is what addicts and keeps people using tobacco products, but it is not what makes tobacco use so deadly. Tobacco and tobacco smoke contain thousands of chemicals. It is this mix of chemicals—not nicotine—that causes serious disease and death in tobacco users, including fatal lung diseases, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer..1

Using any tobacco product containing nicotine can lead to nicotine addiction. This is because nicotine can change the way the brain works, causing cravings for more of it. Some tobacco products, like cigarettes, are designed to deliver nicotine to the brain within seconds,2 making it easier to become dependent on nicotine.

While nicotine naturally occurs in the tobacco plant itself, some tobacco products contain additives that may increase the absorption of nicotine.3

Adolescent Brain Development: Although many teens underestimate how easy it is to become addicted to nicotine, young people are the most at risk for nicotine addiction because their brains are still developing. In fact, the younger a person is when they start using tobacco, the more likely they are to become addicted.4 Nicotine exposure during adolescence can disrupt normal brain development and may have long-lasting effects, such as increased impulsivity and mood disorders.4 Because of nicotine’s powerfully addictive nature and profound effects on the developing brain, no tobacco products are safe for youth to use. 

For more information check out the FDA page for additional resources.



School Meditation Instead of Detention

How awesome is this?? Since the Mindful Moment program started not a single student has been suspended. This 15 min breathing exercise and meditation time helps the children to focus and re calibrate.

School Meditation Instead of Detention