APA Book Notes
In the early 1900s, as public fear of alcohol's health and societal effects swept the nation, teetotallers peddled research that found even small amounts of alcohol consumed by a pregnant woman could hurt a fetus.
But just a decade later, in the wake of public backlash against Prohibition, some of the very researchers who proclaimed alcohol's risks asserted there was no evidence to support alcohol's risk to a fetus. That fallacy wasn't overturned until the 1970s when researchers produced definitive evidence for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
This link between public sentiment, public policy and science is one of the themes in a new volume from APA Books, "Drug Abuse: Origins and Interventions," which seeks to clarify lingering societal misconceptions about drug abuse and present new models for future research.
Edited by psychologists and drug-abuse experts Meyer Glantz, PhD, and Christine Hartel, PhD, the book reports on the latest drug-abuse research, from neurobiology to behavior. The first half of the 445-page book builds a case for the notion of drug abuse as a chronic disorder by examining origins, attitudes and public policy issues around drug abuse. The second half details what's known about treatment and prevention.
Glantz is the associate director for science and acting deputy director of the Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Hartel, of the National Research Council, has worked on issues related to drug abuse for most of her career, including as a consultant to the World Health Organization on marijuana's effects on the human brain and body.
The editors invited the world's top drug-abuse researchers, among them George Koob, PhD, and Robin Room, PhD, to discuss the origins, epidemiology, treatment and prevention of drug abuse. Glantz and Hartel have also written several chapters to summarize key points presented in the book.
"The book describes state-of-the-art drug abuse research," says Glantz. "And several chapters present new models for drug abuse research based on original theoretical underpinnings."
From that perspective, "the book tried to get across the idea that drug abuse is a complex disorder with biological, psychological and environmental roots," says Hartel. "And that means it's going to require behavioral and pharmacological approaches for successful treatment."
She and Glantz emphasize that drug abuse is a chronic disorder, and, as such, drug abuse treatments that seek a permanent cure are preordained to fail.
"If drug addiction is a chronic and relapsing disorder, as it certainly seems to be," the authors write, "then treatment becomes an ongoing process rather than an endpoint."
The ultimate aim of all the authors in this volume is to piece together enough information about the origins of drug abuse to effectively prevent and treat it. Though, they admit, that goal is far off, the science of drug abuse has made significant progress over the past 25 years. Some highlights from the book include:
- A challenge by Dante Cicchetti, PhD, for drug abuse researchers to take a developmental approach to thinking about drug abuse and its treatment and prevention. "Drug abuse does not emerge in full-blown form, but rather unfolds throughout various periods of the life-span," Cicchetti writes. Accordingly, he says, researchers must look more closely at how and why some people use and abuse drugs while others do not.
- A telling story by tobacco expert Jack E. Henningfield, PhD, and Hartel, explaining how basic research on the origins and treatment of drug abuse can shape public policy. They detail how during the 1970s and 1980s researchers documented the behavioral and biological bases for tobacco use, which led to dramatic changes in tobacco regulations--including FDA's 1996 recognition that tobacco is addictive.
The book doesn't aim to reach definitive conclusions about how to prevent or treat drug addiction or even about what causes it, says Hartel. But she hopes it will provide an objective window into the state of current understanding of the complexity of drug use.
"In the end, there will be no magic bullet that is going to make drug abuse and addiction go away," writes NIDA Director Alan I. Leshner, PhD, in the book's foreword. "But as the information in this book conveys, there is great cause for hope that we will continue to make progress in dealing with this, the most complex and compelling issue facing modern day society."
To order a copy of this book, call (800) 374-2721 [in Washington, D.C., call (202) 336-5510] and ask for item number 431624A. Cost for APA members is $39.95; for nonmembers, $49.95.