Toward this end, the committee recommends that:

  • Public education campaigns should be based on an interdisciplinary view of addiction and emphasize treatment effectiveness, as well as include descriptions of the role of brain physiology and function (e.g., pain systems, anxiety circuits, mood systems, and behavioral and psychosocial aspects).

A goal of the campaign could be to redefine drug addiction as a preventable and treatable brain disease influenced by a complex set of behaviors that may be the result of genetic, biological, psychosocial, and environmental interactions, and to emphasize the ways drugs can fundamentally alter neural or brain function. A key to increased understanding of the kinds of changes associated with repeated drug use may be the concept that these drugs can capture control of brain mechanisms that control motivations and emotions (i.e., basic drives, such as anger, fear, anxiety, pain, and depression). Information should focus on the idea that drugs can interact with systems regulating these basic drive states through effects on receptors in the brain and neural circuitry (Chapter 3).

Although the public's views cannot be changed overnight, educational efforts should provide the public with the basis for appreciating that drugs which act on basic brain mechanisms are not inherently ''good" or "bad" but can lead to fundamental alterations in neural or brain function when used inappropriately. In addition, information should be provided to help the public understand that inappropriate drug use can deregulate or disrupt the normal functions of brain systems. This deregulation can be long-lasting; even well after drug use stops, various environmental and emotional triggers can bring about powerful urges to reintroduce drug use (i.e., craving).

In addition, school- or community-based health education programs should be encouraged to address the issues of drug addiction (described above). They should be addressed at appropriate age levels in schools, particularly those with health education and prevention programs.

A campaign for addiction education should include Ad Council initiatives, private and public funding of efforts to develop educational programs for schools or community-based and adult education programs, educational computer programs, and public television and other media communications. In particular, science writers should be educated through press conferences and public symposia.

The Role of Advocacy Groups

Advocacy groups have been particularly effective in generating support for health research and in helping to set research agendas. For example, the stigma

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