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May 6, 2009

"Why Neuroscience Matters for a Rational Drug Policy"

The title of this post is the title of this interesting new piece I found via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Drug addiction reflects abnormal operation of normal neural circuitry.  More than physical dependence, addiction represents changes in the brain that lead to increased craving and diminished capacity for the control of impulses.  Given the growing biological understanding of addiction, it is critical for scientists to play an active role in drug policy because, as neuroscientific understanding develops, we will, to a much greater degree, be able to target specific behavioral, pharmaceutical, and neurological treatments for specific addictions.  It is important to emphasize that biological explanations will not become equivalent to exculpation. Instead, the goal of explanation is to introduce rational sentencing and the opportunity for customized rehabilitation.  This approach is likely to show more utility and less cost than incarceration.  The neuroscientific community should continue to develop rehabilitative strategies so that the legal community can take advantage of those strategies for a rational, customized approach to drug addiction.

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May 6, 2009 at 07:33 AM | Permalink


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Indeed, there is much going on in the federal courts regarding the education of judges about the nexus between neuroscience and drug addiction. In their 2008 national workshops, approximately 300 U.S. district judges attended a discussion of "Facilitating Successful Offender Re-entry: The Court’s Role" which included presentations by Wilson Compton, MD, MPE, of NIH/NIDA on the neuroscience of drug addiction; U.S. district judge Ann Aiken (Oregon) and Chief U.S. Probation Officer Eric Suing (Oregon) on their district's reentry court, which focuses on drug addiction; and Melissa Alexander, Ph.D., of the AOUSC...among others. There was also a follow-up breakout session at each of the three workshops, which were overflowing.

District judges and circuit judges are enrolling in several seminars on "Law and Neuroscience" in which drug addiction is covered by some of the finest neuroscientists in the country working under the auspices of the MacArthur Foundation's Law and Neuroscience Project and the Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research. Finally, magistrate judges are being educated on this topic through their seminars on bail and detention issues.

"Something's happening here. What it is aint exactly clear."

Posted by: The Sherman Office | May 6, 2009 9:46:38 AM

Prof. Berman: All behavior is biologically based, in combination with external circumstances. So if there is any leniency based on biological predisposition, then the pitcher who throws a ball at 98 mph does not deserve his $10 million for his rare skill. Your high grades are biologically based in combination with your hard work. Should the biological portion of your grades be obviated since it was not earned?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 6, 2009 11:15:14 AM

Punishment is still a very useful tool. It is a background requirement to motivate people for treatment It gets into the calculation of how much love of drugs and alcohol exceeds fear of being in a cage. Punishment is a brain based, biological procedure on the body.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 6, 2009 11:28:04 AM

That is a nice idea. Addiction can be of various forms. What most drugs have in common, though, is over stimulation of the pleasure center of the brain. With time, the brain’s chemistry is actually altered to the point where not having the drug becomes extremely uncomfortable and even painful.
Thanks for sharing useful content here. Information like this will surely help people.

Posted by: Addiction Treatment | Jan 20, 2010 5:33:07 AM

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