• The Genetics of Alcohol Withdrawal

    Posted on August 24, 2023
    By Kenneth Anderson, MA Two people of the same weight, height, and sex can drink the same amount of alcohol over the same period of time, and when they stop, one will have few if any symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, while the other will go through severe alcohol withdrawal. Why is this? Although environmental factors (e.g., kindling) may have some influence, the primary reason for this difference appears to be genetics. One of Several Studies on Genetics of Alcohol Withdrawal A 2005 study conducted at a detoxification unit in Germany by Martin Driessen et al. gives us an idea of what percentage of people will develop alcohol withdrawal. There were 217 patients in this study, and they had drunk an average of 15.6 US standard drinks per day during the 30 days prior to the study. The r...
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  • A Closer Look at the Rat Park Experiment, Part 3

    Posted on August 17, 2023
    By Kenneth Anderson, MA Part 1 reviewed some of the historical background which led up to the rat park studies. Part 2 reviewed the rat park studies themselves. Part 3 will look at where we have gone since. Follow-ups to Alexander's Rat Park Experiment The July 5, 1985 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study by Michael A. Bozarth and Roy A. Wise on the toxicity of heroin and cocaine in rats. Subjects were 23 male Long Evans rats. All 23 rats were housed in solitary confinement in laboratory cages and fitted with catheters so that they could self-inject drugs by pressing a lever. The rats were given unlimited access to the drugs for 30 days. Eleven rats were in the heroin group; all eleven learned how to self-inject heroin. The amount of her...
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  • A Closer Look at the Rat Park Experiment, Part 2

    Posted on July 27, 2023
    A Closer Look at the Rat Park Experiment, Part 2 By Kenneth Anderson, MA Part 1 reviewed some of the historical background which led up to the rat park studies. Part 2 reviews the rat park studies themselves. Part 3 will take a look at where we have gone since. Bruce K. Alexander's first rat park study was published in 1978. The subjects were 32 albino Wistar rats (18 males and 14 females). After weaning, 10 of the rats (six males and four females) were placed in solitary confinement in standard laboratory cages. Twenty-two of the rats (12 males and 10 females) were placed in rat park. Rat park was an open-topped plywood box with 95 square feet of floor space covered in sawdust where rats could play, fight, and have sex with each other just like they did in their natural enviro...
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  • Preaddiction - A Helpful Term?

    Posted on June 15, 2023
    by Tom Horvath, Ph.D. Would the term “preaddiction” be helpful? The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) jointly issued a Request for Information on this term. The details of the Request are at the very bottom. Below is what I sent them (slightly edited): ** What would a better term be? Addiction (and thereby, preaddiction) is an undesirable term because it is used by many in an all-or-none fashion, or to denote a state of disease (leaving out those who view these disorders as primarily behavioral). Consequently, preaddiction is also undesirable. I believe that eliminating the terms addiction and preaddiction will greatly reduce stigma, because these terms are used to divide people into two groups (addicted, n...
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  • A Closer Look at the Rat Park Experiment, Part 1

    Posted on June 1, 2023
    A Closer Look at the Rat Park Experiment, Part 1 By Kenneth Anderson, MA Bruce K. Alexander's rat park experiment series have become a very popular topic among people interested in addiction in recent years. The rat park experiments, published in 1978, 1979, and 1981, showed that albino Wistar rats living in a naturalistic environment with other rats consumed a lot less morphine than rats in solitary confinement in individual cages. In this article, I will give some of the historical background which led up to the rat park studies (Part 1), review the rat park studies themselves (Part 2), and take a look at where we have gone since (Part 3). A huge number of studies have been conducted on the effect of environment on addiction in animal models since the days of the rat park experi...
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  • Transforming the US Addiction Treatment Workforce, Part 1

    Posted on March 8, 2023
    By Tom Horvath, PhD, ABPP The rapid increase in US overdose deaths in recent years has resulted in increased attention to our drug policies and treatment system. In other developed countries drug policy has increasingly oriented toward harm reduction. Harm reduction approaches emphasize working with individuals who use drugs to increase safe use in the short term, and improved well-being and the resolution of addictive problems in the longer term. Transforming the US Addiction Treatment Workforce -  It's Needed This approach has been controversial in the US, on the assumption that any approach that does not insist on immediate abstinence encourages drug use and is therefore counterproductive. This controversy overlooks the reality that in the countries that have embraced a harm red...
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  • Stanton Peele interviews Tom Horvath

    Posted on November 18, 2022
    Stanton Peele Interviews Tom Horvath by Tom Horvath, ABPP, Ph.D. In an unexpected honor I was invited to be interviewed for one hour on video by Stanton Peele. I have admired Peele’s work since early in my days specializing in addictive problems. Along with the Sobell’s, Alan Marlatt (now deceased), and Bill Miller, he is one of the thinkers I have learned the most from. I view him as the most important theorist about addiction. As I wrote in my review of his latest book: Peele revolutionized our understanding of addiction. Love and Addiction, published in 1975 (and co-authored with Archie Brodsky), presented a new perspective on what addiction is, how it arises, and how it can be addressed. His insights are still far from being fully understood and acted upon, especially in th...
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  • Will the concept of “preaddiction” improve care for addictive problems?

    Posted on August 13, 2022
    By Tom Horvath, PhD, ABPP On 7/6/22 JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) published “Preaddiction—A Missing Concept for Treating Substance Use Disorders.” Written by three of the most well-respected scientists in the field (McLellan, Koob, and Volkow), the article reminds us of the value of early detection and treatment of addictive problems, rather than waiting until these problems are severe. Because there is also a much larger number of individuals at lower levels of severity, there is substantial societal benefit from addressing that larger group. That group may generate more negative impact than the severe group. The article also reminds us that less than 20% of those who might benefit from treatment seek it, a situation that frustrates the authors. When ...
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  • NIAAA’s Core Resource on Alcohol

    Posted on July 8, 2022
    by A. Tom Horvath, Ph.D., ABPP Might you be looking for an up-to-date and thoroughly scientific “textbook” on alcohol, alcohol problems, and how to deal with them? In May, 2022, the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), one of the 27 National Institutes of Health, published one online. Although this resource is written for healthcare professionals who address alcohol problems, motivated non-professionals will find answers to many of their questions, as well as links to resources for investigating further. NIAAA's Core resource provides 14 articles, which address: How much alcohol is too much? Risk factors for developing alcohol problems The neuroscience of alcohol Understanding and coping with stigma about alcohol problems Medical complic...
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  • Rat Park Revisited

    Posted on April 29, 2022
    By Tom Horvath, PhD Not exactly: I’m reporting about a presentation by Professor Bruce Alexander, the creator of “rat park,” given on 4/19/22, for the Addiction Theory Network, based in the UK. The webinar was: Retiring the Brain Disease Model of Addiction. And Then What? Rat Park Recap Rat Park, if you are not familiar with it, was his groundbreaking research showing that when rats are given a stimulating environment they will NOT die from self-administering various substances (e.g., cocaine, heroin). However, they will die from self-administration in a barren cage where the only choices are food/water and substances. Further, if you take rats stuck in those barren cages and then place them in rat park, they will again engage in normal rat activities and no longer have substance p...
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