Drug Addiction and Incarceration

Last month, at a Capitol Hill briefing in Washington, D.C., experts gathered to address the surge in opioid drug abuse and fatal overdoses among people of all demographics within the United States. According to a 2010 study done by the Centers for Disease Control, prescription opioids accounted for 60% of overdose deaths, a statistic that has doubled in just over ten years. While there is work being done by federal and state agencies to deter future abuse of prescription painkillers, speakers of the event focused particularly on those who are imprisoned as a result of their addiction.

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Mental Health Disorders in Prison: Neuroethical and Societal Issues

Guest post by Barbara Sahakian, FMedSci, DSc, a professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, and president of the International Neuroethics Society.

INS LogoMore than half of all prison and jail inmates have a mental health problem.[i] In addition, according to a 2010 report released by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association,[ii] more mentally ill persons are in jails and prisons than in hospitals, and many of those remain untreated. Those in prison have a higher risk of substance abuse, and suicide rates are four to five times higher than within the general population.[iii] Deaths are also increased upon release, with the most common reasons being drug overdose, cardiovascular disease, homicide, and suicide.[iv]

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Optogenetics: Controlling the Brain with Light

Photo source/credit: Ed Boyden/McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT

Photo source/credit: Ed Boyden/McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT

What if we could suddenly cease cravings caused by addiction or turn off feelings of depression with the flip of a switch? To better understand “one of the hottest areas of neuroscience research,” the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) welcomed three guests to discuss the latest developments in the field of optogenetics. The June 9th event was the latest in a series of luncheon briefings on Capitol Hill, hosted by AAAS and funded by the Dana Foundation.

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Addiction and Free Will

37f48-6a01156f9c01e7970c017eeae51f50970d-piIn an article recently published by the Huffington Post, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shares an intimate anecdote about her grandfather’s harrowing battle with alcoholism, an addiction that was kept secret from her until long after his death.

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From Birth to Two: the Neuroscience of Infant Development

Photo courtesy of AAAS

Photo courtesy of AAAS

“There are many misconceptions about child development,” said Pat Levitt, Provost Professor at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California at the latest Neuroscience and Society lecture convened by the Dana Foundation and American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Some of the most prevalent myths include that humans are born with a blank slate; children are sponges; 80% of development takes place by 3 years old; and that a child’s outcome is predominantly self-determined. Moreover, many consider the mixture of fate, free will, parenting, genes, and environment a mysterious “black box” that ultimately decides a child’s success.

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