I chose this book from the Amazon Vine program for a few reasons: I am a public defender who works with addicts (and recovering addicts) on a daily basis, and I recently lost a close friend to a drug overdose. I wanted to know more about how the brain functions after substance abuse, and this book did the job.
Dr. Kuhar starts the book very slowly, in a steady "Hey kids, this is what a drug is, and this is what a neuron is" style, very appropriate for a junior high health class. The complexity of the topics discussed slowly increases as Dr. Kuhar begins to bring in more sophisticated topics, like the way that different types of drugs function and the various treatment methods available to patients. There are many examples from ethical animal testing (with a good disclaimer, right from the beginning, about how and why responsible scientists use animals in experiments), and Dr. Kuhar cites a wide variety of recent medical and scientific journals, so the book really feels fresh and relevant. I was particularly struck by the developing understanding of long-term effects of drug use on the brain (a subject that is very relevant for me when it comes to crafting a request for reasonable probation conditions during a plea argument) and a surprising support for methadone (my clients tell me they are disappointed in methadone programs, which substitute a dangerous addictive substance with a less dangerous one, but Dr. Kuhar urges readers to strip the stigma from the problem by asking if anyone considers lifelong insulin injections as a failed method of treating diabetics).
Dr. Kuhar seems to pursue a few goals with this book: introducing a layperson to the terminology and methods used by scientific/medical specialists in the field of addiction, highlighting a few areas of intense contemporary research, and shifting perceptions of addicts from a position of blame for their choices to a position of empathy for their medical conditions. While this isn't a page-turner that's likely to enthrall a wide audience, it is a book that will educate a serious reader with an interest in addiction treatment.
The Addicted Brain focuses on the physiological causes and results of addiction and explains why and how addiction is a brain disease using illustrations, Pet scan brain imaging and numerous research studies.
Dr. Michael Kuhar is a scientist who explains addiction clearly, and at times charmingly to the layman; at one point he assures the reader that scientists who do research on animal subjects are sensitive to caring for the animals and `many have beloved pets at home'. At another point he says, "Wow," when talking about an accidental discovery that led to important research.
But this is a serious book by an award winning scientist that clearly shows how drugs change and overwhelm the brain to produce long lasting changes that make it so difficult to stop using them.
He also addresses vulnerabilities to addiction, citing studies about personality traits, social rank and status, genetics and early stressors, in which he cites his own research.
There is even information about vaccine trials.
The author talks about the mechanisms of each common drug of abuse, the neurotransmitter function in specific brain regions, what drugs do to alter them, and shows Pet Scans of the brains of users compared to non users which illustrate how addicted brains change over time with continued use, or in recovery.
He also addresses addiction to gambling, sex and food.
The last chapter deals with treatment and discusses the principles of treatment.
I recommend this book for those who have more than just passing curiosity about addiction. The book offers the results of research and goes into detail of what the studies mean with discussions and illustrations. While I think the author strives to appeal to the layman, I think this book may contain too much complicated research for some.
Maybe it's because I work in mental health, but I found much of the information in here to be fairly basic and well known. I was hoping for more in depth analysis--what are the long-term effects of drug use on cognition and processing? We know that drug use modifies brain chemistry--the changes that manifest themselves in the genes, are they passed down to the drug addict's offspring? What if the addict stops using--do the genes return to normal? Some of this was addressed in the book. We see a lot of adolescents who have smoked salvia or methamphetamines where I work--do the changes in their personalities and processing last a lifetime, if the person never does the drug again? How maleable is the brain? What about alcoholics? If they sober up and stay that way, can the brain recover? And how does this manifest itself in their day to day lives? I had a lot of questions (clearly) and wasn't satisfied with the depth of the answers the book provided. The author is obviously very knowledgable--I think this book was written specifically for the lay person. Also, his use of exclamation points kind of drove me nuts, but that may just be me.
The Addicted Brain is an excellent, educational book. It may be considered basic by some, but as the father of a 22-year-old recovering addict, I appreciate *any* book that helps explain why addiction is a brain disease. My son has been battling addiction for more than seven years, and it's taken its toll not only on him, but on our whole family. The stigma associated with addiction needs to be eliminated, and books like this can help chip away at it. Thanks to Michael Kuhar for writing it.
on December 30, 2011
This author has done an astounding job of explaining, in layman's terms, the physiology and psychology of addition. As a medical professional who has worked with addicts, and also know people actively suffering from addiction, I found it a very thorough and exhaustive work.
Like another reviewer commented, I would really like to see data on the effects of long-term drug abuse on the brain. It is said it takes the brain two years to begin to function normally, but I wonder, does it ever? Would really like to see this author tackle that subject! However, this is clearly a book on the "why" of addiction, and in that arena, the subject matter is covered brilliantly.
on May 16, 2012
`Addicted' is essentially a primer of the importance of studying and curbing addiction across the multiple fields of drugs. It takes into consideration many aspects of the `disease' of addiction, positions for and against certain policies, the harm drugs do, the good they could do and the particular factors that lead to addiction.
Of primary importance is the understanding of the use of animal models in addiction study. Animals have been taught to self-administer drugs - that's right - "Self" administer. This presents a clear indicator that whatever reward systems are active in the brain both people and many animals are hard-wired to seek them out, whether it be sweetened condensed milk or cocaine.
The author also discusses what happens within the brain, neurologically, when drugs are repeatedly administered. The major point in this section is that with many drugs and repeat use there's a decrease in D2 receptors (Dopamine), thus the user needs more of a substance to achieve the high (threshold increase) and sadly for the user the high will usually never be as good as the first time. The author also states that it can often take months, sometimes years of abstinence for the brain to return to it's base-line state of function, if it ever will at all.
Glossed over are the risk factors for abuse and addiction: genetics, environment / environmental stressors, temperament and age. Genetics seems the least important as the author states genetics may only be 30-40% accountable, however age seems highly important in that to use before the frontal lobes are fully developed may forever stunt ones social growth and judgmental capabilities.
The author also covers the stigma of being labeled an addict, the social policies, treatment programs and how these items often add to the difficulty of getting clean. Along with these topics is a brief descriptor of how each of the seven classes of drugs acts within the body, their harmful capabilities, their medical uses and drugs used to counter their actions both inside and outside (with antibodies - totally fascinating!) the brain.
This isn't `heavy' reading and it's scientific data is easy to grasp if you have a minute understanding of neurology. It provides a great resource to the most basic information regarding addiction and addictive substances. A must if you have a simple interest in the facets of addiction, a could be if you desire to clean yourself up.
If you or any one you love is an addict try to get help as soon as possible, before it's too late.... Take it from one who didn't find out until it was too late. I played the fool and the demon inside won. Not again, not one more time.
on March 27, 2012
This book not only explains how complicated the recovery of a drug addict is, but it also demonstrates why drug addicts cannnot easily quit their destructive behavior. The book clearly shows how painful, difficult, and fragile the recovery can be. Many of my myths and beliefs were broken here. Perhaps the best treatment is to avoid them and never try drugs unless for medical necessity. The book also tries to convince the reader that other habits canalso become addictions, but the statement is more persuasive than empiric. Still some of the treatments can also work for someone who has gambling problems. The book is presented in a simple still research style study. The book succeeds to demonstrate its point and educate the reader.it even provides data and examples to prove several research studies. This book is a good read for any pre teen or teen parent. Also for anybody supporting a drug addict, either to seek for professional help or provide support during the withdrawal process
Drug addiction may seem fun at first but often life turns into a living hell. I know because my brother lived through addiction until one day he was found dead with drugs in his system. His life was cut short because he was seeking pleasure in an addictive substance. Most likely he was in emotional pain as his wife had divorced him. Ironically he'd just been through a drug detox program. This book explains that it might take more than one time in rehab to overcome a drug addiction. Unfortunately my brother never got that chance. It is with that said that I urge you to read this book because it could save your life or the life of someone you know.
This book explains how the brain works. I've never before seen drug addiction explained quite so effectively. The section on how cocaine works is enlightening. Basically this book shows how drug addiction starts and progresses.
The author also talks about the disadvantages of legalization, but also thinks drug addiction should be less stigmatized so people will actually feel free to get the help they need. The focus of this book seems to be on getting the help needed and understanding what addiction actually is. It also shows how stress affects the desire for drugs.
I felt this book made me more informed on a prominent problem in society. Parents should read this to be able to warn their children not to take drugs to begin with. This book also explains a few treatment options.
I wish my brother could have read this book. Maybe it would have helped him understand his addiction.
~The Rebecca Review
on January 6, 2012
The human brain and addiction is a very complex issue; but it is presented here in a clear and comprehensible manner. The author, a ground breaking research scientist, helps us understand the how and why of brain changes occurring with the use of addictive drugs. Understanding how our brains are affected by the chemicals we ingest is one of the more important things we can do to better inform ourselves. It also provides hope for those afflicted and affected by addictive drugs.
on October 6, 2012
I chose to read this book, "The Addicted Brain" by Michael Kuhar, because I am very interested in the neurophysiological mechanisms behind drugs and how they implement their effects on the brain of users. This book actually exceeded my initial expectations, and turned out to be very informative. This book not only describes how drugs mediate their effects, but it also describes how drug user's can get addicted to these effects induced by drugs of various types ranging from alcohol to opioids. Kuhar does this on a macro scale by describing how experiments and tests preformed on animals have shown that drugs can in fact be extremely addicting, and he also describes the effects of the drug on the animals. He also does this on a micro scale by describing the molecular mechanisms associated with drug addiction and drug induced effects on the body. It starts off slowly by introducing the reader to the basic anatomy of the brain, neurons, and neurotransmitters, and then slowly starts describing the specific ways in which different drugs alter neural transmission. It describes how neural transmission is altered by drugs because drugs interfere with one or many of the three R's: "release of neurotransmitter, receptor activation by neurotransmitter, and removal of neurotransmitter". The book then goes on to talk about how addiction to a drug sets in via the formation of a tolerance and the fear of withdrawal symptoms. Kuhar describes a metaphor of how addiction is like "a rider and his elephant", and how the more ancient parts of our brains sometimes overpower our critical rational thinking parts of our brains and give in to drug use and addiction.
Structure and Style
Kuhar writes in a way that is easy to understand. He describes the mechanisms of addiction to drugs very simply, but is very thorough in his explanations, making sure not to leave any detail or process out. The book is written in a way as to convey complex ideas by using simple terms and by using comparisons and metaphors. The structure of the book is set up in a way that describes first how addiction occurs, then the effects of addiction, then vulnerabilities of addiction, and then ways to treat addiction.
Effects on the Brain
One of the most interesting aspects about this book is the way it describes the long-term effects and changes drugs have on the brain. This book includes fMRI and PET scan data showing the physical activity of the brain on various different drugs. It also includes data showing the difference in brain activity between a brain not on drugs and a brain that is on drugs or has been on drugs in the past. The point of real, physical change in the brain due to drugs is really hit home in this book.
Vulnerability to Addiction
Personally, I thought the book also did an excellent job describing how a person's vulnerability to drug addiction can be determined. The book describes many potential effectors of vulnerability, ranging from genes that produce altered neurotransmitter receptor proteins that promote addiction, to personality traits, age of first drug use, and the availability of drugs a person has.
A good point that Kuhar makes is the fact that people use drugs to attempt to alleviate a negative circumstance in their lives. When people experience stress in the workplace or in their family lives, drug use by these people seems to increase significantly. The book also does a good job of describing how stress can trigger relapse in recovering drug abusers and addicts.
By far, my favorite part of the book was chapter 11. This chapter goes through 10 different classes of drugs: alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, Xanax, Valium, and other sedatives, oxycontin and other opiates, ecstasy and "club" drugs, PCP and caffeine. I loved how it describes the effects of each drug, exactly how the drug mediates its affects, and what neurotransmitters and/or receptors it effects in the brain.
This book is especially good for people who know or are close to someone who have been negatively effected by the misery and controlling grip of addiction. It gives many valuable insights for solutions to addiction of all kinds, and not just drug addiction. This includes addiction to gambling, food, and sex. Various treatment options ranging from medications that curb addiction to rehab centers and therapy are discussed.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is sincerely interested in how drugs effect the brain and body, understanding the underlying mechanisms of addiction, the dangers of addiction, and factors that influence vulnerability to addiction. This book teaches people about how to help people who are addicted to drugs, and to recognize and understand that drug addiction is not entirely about a lack of will power or determination, but is actually hardwired in our brains and uncontrollable for some people. This book was very easy to read, and kept my attention and was very interesting from start to finish!