‘Addiction is a Medical Disorder’: No Way!

In my last blog, I described how I spent the first 25 years of my career as a neuroscientist studying brain function. After working in Sweden and the USA, I returned to the UK to set up my own neuroscience laboratory in the Department of Psychology, University of Reading in 1986. Six years later, I moved the laboratory to the Department of Psychology, University of Wales Swansea (later Swansea University).

At the time, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) in the USA was receiving large sums of government money to fund neuroscience research focused on drug and alcohol addiction. NIDA considered addiction to be a brain disease and addictive drugs were thought to ‘hijack’ the brain’s reward system, which was thought to use dopamine as a neurotransmitter. 

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Brain Chemicals to Human Connection, Part 1

My career has been quite a journey. Some of you will know I initially spent 25 years working as a neuroscientist, studying the role of the brain neurotransmitter dopamine in normal behaviour and in so-called ‘disorders’ such as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and addiction.

I had a great time as a neuroscientist and loved my work. I was lucky enough to spend three years (1981-84) as a postdoctoral fellow with Arvid Carlsson, the ‘father’ of dopamine and recipient of The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2000. I had such an amazing time in Gothenburg (Sweden) and our research was truly very exciting.

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‘Finding Human Life on Earth’ by Carina Håkansson

chakanssonHere is an excellent blog from the Mad in America website. Carina Håkansson is a psychotherapist and manager at Family Care Foundation in Gothenburg, Sweden, which was founded in 1987.

It’s a funny old world because I spent three years in Gothenburg from 1981 in the early stages of my neuroscience career, conducting postdoctoral research with Arvid Carlsson, the father of dopamine research. Dopamine is the brain neurotransmitter classically associated with schizophrenia.

As some of you know, I left my neuroscience career behind me in 2000 because I did not believe that drug treatments were helping people recover from addiction and mental health problems. Anyway, here is Carina:

‘Through the ISPS listserve, I read a blog this morning written by Thomas Insel, director of the NIMH. The way he described people I daily meet in work and in my own life created a rising pulse, so I decided to find  out some more about his thoughts and practice. I am not saying that what I read on his blog is unknown to me, but still it made me wonder how on earth is it possible to invest so much money – and resources – in research which is so distant from practice, and so far away from humanistic and holistic ideas and theories.

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The Addicted Brain: Interview with Marc Lewis

4033340-4x3-340x255Here’s a fascinating interview with Marc Lewis as part of the ABC Radio Big Ideas series here in Australia. Well worth putting your feet up and listening – or have it running in the background.

‘Marc Lewis took every drug imaginable over a 15 year period. He knows drugs can make you feel good, and he experienced the desperate lows of addiction. He’s been drug free for 30 years and is now a neuroscientist.

So what do the drugs he took actually do to your brain?  Why do they make you feel the way they do? And – crucially – how is the brain responsible for addiction? He speaks to Paul Barclay.’

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