Brains, environments and effective public policy regarding addiction

First published: 09 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

This paper by two neuroscientists and two drug policy analysts attempts to describe what neuroscience can add to public policy regarding addiction. Policymakers around the world are desperately seeking solutions for addiction to alcohol, opioids, nicotine, cocaine and other drugs. Neuroscience is only one of many sciences that can aid policymakers in their quest to create better addiction-focused policies, but its contributions should nto be overlooked.  Specifically, neuroscience insights regarding the role of neuroadaptation in addiction, the risks of substance-saturated modern environments, and the vulnerability of adolescents to addiction, have important implications for public policy regarding addiction. Ironically, neuroscience should often lead policy makers to look outside the brain to the environments in which people live and the public health policies that shape those environments, which are always in transaction with the brain.  However, for such evidence-informed policies to be developed and implemented, bidirectional, translational links between scientists and policy makers must be built and resourced. This would be a challenging endeavor both for neuroscientists and policymakers, but the substantial public health and safety benefits would amply justify the costs.  The presentation concludes with a description of a newly launched policymaker-scientist network at Stanford University that is promoting sustained collaboration and more effective public policies regarding addiction.


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Professor Keith Humphreys