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C. Is Drug Addiction A Brain Disorder?

Narrator: This is Science Today. By understanding the physiological aspects of drug addiction, psychiatry professor Robert Malenka of the University of California, San Francisco says better treatment may be on the way. According to Malenka, this may also put to rest a popular belief that drug addiction is a sign of a weak will.

Malenka: It really should be viewed as a brain disorder . . . as a medical disorder. The brain is just another organ in your body like your heart or your kidney and that for a variety of both genetic reasons and environmental reasons, there are certain individuals who are going to be very susceptible to developing addictions to various drugs of abuse.

Narrator: Chronic drug intake seems to take over and alter certain areas of the brain which control rewarding and reinforcing behavior.

Malenka: The hope is that by understanding these basic cellular, molecular mechanisms and especially the acute effects of drugs of abuse, that eventually we can develop more effective pharmacological treatments that prevent these adaptations.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.