Dealing with addiction
£9.95 GBP, 2 hours

Drug addiction has a severe impact on individuals and their families, and its social cost is rising. Alcohol and tobacco are the most commonly abused drugs, but opioid and methamphetamine addiction is increasing and other illicit substances, such as recently developed psychoactives (e.g. Spice, bath salts), periodically generate intense media attention.

Addiction refers to the chronic and compulsive use of chemical substances, leading to personal or social harm. The science of addiction is uncertain—psychological and neurological events in the transition from recreational to compulsive use of drugs are difficult to clarify. Current theories include habit, aversion, reward-seeking, and chronic changes in neuronal function. Sadly, none of these has led to the discovery of concrete treatments to prevent or reverse addiction, or to prevent relapse following abstinence.

Nurses' ability to support people and their families managing addictions, and to minimise social harms, depends on an understanding of current models of addiction and how potential treatments address these. A better understanding of the underlying neurological events in addiction in the future will, it is hoped, provide more targeted remedies.

After completing this activity and the accompanying quiz, you should be able to:

  • Outline current biological theories of addiction.
  • Describe long term neurological changes that affect recovery from addiction.
  • Describe risks associated with compulsive drug use.
  • Outline current and potential treatment options for addiction.
Image credit: istockphoto
The PDF accompanying this activity was first published in the September 2017 issue of Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand.


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