In Strange Facts about Addiction Part 1, we discussed two strange facts about drug addiction: 1.) Addiction is likely an evolutionary survival trait that rapidly-advanced modern humans are not equipped to manage. 2.) Detox from some drugs or alcohol can have fatal implications. In this installment of the series, we’ll discuss several more strange and interesting facts about drug addiction that ultimately will help increase knowledge of the disease and lead to a greater public awareness of this American epidemic.
Animals get Addicted to Drugs Too
Much of what we know about addiction comes not from studying its effects on humans, but from observations made of animals using and becoming addicted to drugs. In general these are laboratory studies, and despite some public aversion to such research, the studies have provided significant insight into how and why addictions form, and more importantly, how it can be treated.
In a paper on animal models of drug addiction, a team of researchers writes
“The treatment of addictions and addictive behaviors is thus an important public health concern. Basic animal studies have greatly contributed to progress in this area and will surely continue to yield significant insights into the neuroanatomical circuitry, neurophysiological function, neurochemical changes, and behavioral processes underlying addiction.” (1)
In some cases, laboratory animals that are addicted to drugs will actually choose drugs over food, and some strains of mice prefer certain drugs and will consistently choose one over another. All of these are behaviors that people exhibit when they are addicted to drugs, demonstrating that research into animal models of addiction has its merit.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to study addiction in animals is that by doing so, researchers are able to identify which genes are responsible for parts of the addiction process. And because humans share the vast majority of their genes with mice, scientists can then identify and study the genes in humans believed to be responsible for the same behaviors or functions.
Babies and Infants can be Physically but not Psychologically Addicted
Babies can become addicted to drugs while still in the womb, or with sufficient exposure to substances through breastmilk or other environmental exposure. However, despite the fact that babies can become severely dependent on a substance and suffer dangerous withdrawal symptoms if the substance is withheld, they cannot become psychologically addicted. This is because the baby does not yet have the mental capacity to understand that it is addicted to a substance, nor does it comprehend that use of a certain substance will alleviate physical symptoms.
In most cases treatment of a drug-addicted baby or infant include management of withdrawal symptoms, but in some cases the child will need to be weaned from a substance slowly so as to not risk serious complications. However, just because a child survives the physical aspects of addiction doesn’t mean they’ll survive the future emotional aspects if permitted to remain with the drug addicted mother. For this reason, many drug addicted babies are removed from their mother’s care.
In the next installment of this article series we’ll discuss two more strange facts about drug addiction. But if you or someone you love needs help right now, call the number at the top of your screen for a free, confidential consultation. Empowering yourself with information about addiction is a great start, but if you don’t take real action nothing will change. That action begins with a phone call. Why not start now?
(1) Joseph Frascella, Kimberlei A. Richardson, and Gabrielle L. McLemore Animal Models of Drug Addiction in Support of Novel Therapeutic Strategies Institute for Laboratory Animal Research Journal