New Book: The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction

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This is an in-depth examination of addiction science and medical treatments for drug dependence and alcoholism, written by an experienced science and business journalist.

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''The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction'' by Dirk Hanson, is a new book for anyone concerned with the care and healing of addiction, substance abuse, and the latest advances in the area of addiction science. Author Hanson has written a vital resource for friends and families of addicts and alcoholics, as well as health groups and substance abuse professionals.

The amazing growth of addiction science has led to new understandings about the biochemical, emotional, and cognitive processes that give rise to substance addiction. In this accessible and straightforward examination, ''The Chemical Carousel'' looks at the history of drug use, and abuse; the drugs themselves; treatment methods; and alternate approaches to addiction, while presenting the compelling and surprising advances that have changed the landscape of addiction science. Written with the layperson in mind, this book is a must read for anyone interested in addiction, its causes, and its challenges.

Extended Description

Isn't substance abuse really about weak wills and low self-esteem? Is addiction really a medical condition? Can addicts be cured? Journalist and author Dirk Hanson responds to these and other critical questions about substance abuse, addiction science, and human nature in his eminently accessible and groundbreaking new book, ''The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction.''

Addicts have traditionally been taught to think of themselves the way Franz Kafka thought of himself in relation to his own disease: ''Secretly I don't believe this illness to be tuberculosis ... but rather a sign of my general bankruptcy." Despite decades of official recognition of the disease model of addiction, the traditional view of the addict as an immature and irresponsible person, short on will power, low on self-esteem, and forever at the mercy of his or her "addictive personality," is still alive and well. Moreover, this outmoded view works at cross-purposes with the goal of helping addicts recognize the need for treatment.

In ''The Chemical Carousel,'' science writer Dirk Hanson takes the reader on a voyage through the heady world of addiction science, from the lab to the clinic to the junky on the street. Hanson explains the workings of common neurotransmitters and documents the direct effect drugs and alcohol produce on the reward pathways of the brain. He shows how scientists and treatment professionals have finally given us an answer to the perennial question about addiction: Why can't those people just say no?

Written in plain English with the layperson in mind, ''The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction'' presents a thoughtful, compassionate, and straightforward examination of a subject many find arcane and mysterious, but one that takes a huge toll on human lives and national economies worldwide. If you are concerned about addiction, its impact, and the hope for its eventual cure, then ''The Chemical Carousel'' is an essential resource and a must read.

Author Biography

Dirk Hanson is a freelance science writer and the author of "The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction." He is also the author of ''The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution.'' He has worked as a business and technology reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog.

Facts from the book

As many as 30 percent of suicides every year may come from the nation's pool of about 22 million alcoholics. Half of all emergency room patients with multiple fractures are alcoholics, according to research by prominent alcohol investigator George Vaillant. Female alcoholics develop liver diseases like cirrhosis more frequently than men do. Alcohol loses most its rewarding properties when brain receptors for opiates are blocked.

--Large numbers of addicted cigarette smokers suffer from clinical depression. Smoking a single cigarette has been likened by one nicotine researcher to ''lighting a match in a gasoline factory.'' Women who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day face an 80 per cent greater risk of developing breast cancer, compared to non-smoking women. Roughly one out of every three women of childbearing age was a cigarette smoker in 1991. Former Surgeon General Everett Koop said tobacco smoking results in ''a thousand funerals a day.''

--Large doses of methamphetamine can trigger psychotic episodes indistinguishable from schizophrenia. Vigabatrin, a drug for the treatment of epilepsy, may turn out to be the first government-approved treatment for meth addiction.

--Recent studies have documented the existence of severe caffeine addicts, who suffer significant depression and impaired cognition for several months following termination of coffee drinking.

--Mice that have been genetic altered so that they lack the ability to taste sweet foods still prefer sugar water to regular water. And PET scans of former bulimics (men suffer from it, too) disclosed that they showed a marked decrease in serotonin binding at 5HT receptors, compared to healthy, age-matched women.

--Between 3 and 7 percent of Americans are "poor metabolizers" due to a genetic variant for the enzyme CYP2D6. For them, the recommended drug dosage can be far too high.

--A significant percentage of regular marijuana users report that they suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms when they abstain completely from pot.

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