Addiction’s impact on the brain: WBUR reports on neuroscience research at UMMS

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

July 10, 2014
  Judson Brewer, MD, PhD
  Judson Brewer, MD, PhD
   
  Joseph DiFranza, MD
  Joseph DiFranza, MD
   
  Jean King, PhD
  Jean King, PhD
   
  Andrew Tapper, PhD
  Andrew Tapper, PhD
   

Scientists at UMass Medical School are discovering that addiction permanently affects the connections between areas of the brain, making it a complex and hard-to treat disease, according to a new report on WBUR public radio.

“It’s becoming clear that addiction is a disease,” Andrew Tapper, PhD, associate professor of medicine and psychiatry and interim director of the UMMS Brudnick Neuropsychiatric Research Institute, told WBUR. “So there are certain groups of people that if they start smoking, drinking or doing drugs, they will have a tough time quitting and they can’t help it. This is a disease in my mind like cancer or any other disease.”

The July 10 CommonHealth report, “How Addiction Can Affect Brain Connections” by WBUR reporter Deborah Becker, is the fourth in the station’s Brain Matters series. The story includes interviews with Judson Brewer, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine and director of research for the UMMS Center for Mindfulness, who is studying the role of mindfulness in treating nicotine addiction; family doctor and nicotine addiction expert Joseph DiFranza, MD, professor of family medicine & community health; and Jean King, PhD, professor of psychiatry and associate provost for biomedical science research.

“You can’t go in like certain diseases and you fix it. This is a disease that you fix it now and somebody could in 10 years go back to drugs. That’s what’s so insidious. It’s the disease that never really quits,” said Dr. King. “When our patients come back and say, ‘I’ve tried this and it’s not working,’ then it’s our job as scientists to figure out how to give them options.”

Listen to the full story here.

Related link on UMassMedNow:

Tapper identifies region of brain responsible for nicotine withdrawal symptoms