Mind-Altering Drugs: The Science of Subjective Experience

Mind-Altering Drugs: The Science of Subjective Experience

Mind-Altering Drugs: The Science of Subjective Experience

Mind-Altering Drugs: The Science of Subjective Experience

Synopsis

At least one of every three Americans has used an illicit drug. Drugs attract considerable attention in science, legislation, and the media. Nonetheless, many people develop attitudes about drugs and drug users based on limited information. Researchers often find themselves divided intocamps based on the drug they study most often, which limits their ability to benefit from important work done on other drugs. As a result, government policies form without a complete understanding of the intoxication experience. What is the nature of intoxication? At first, this question appearsto be simple and straightforward, but upon closer inspection, the dichotomous distinctions between everyday awareness and its alternatives grow fuzzy. An in-depth examination of the subjective effects of drugs and the pursuit of altered states soon leads to age-old questions about free will,heredity, environment, and consciousness. Mind-Altering Drugs is the first book to bring together chapters from leading researchers that present diverse, empirically based insights into the subjective experiences of drugs a nd their links to addictive potential. By avoiding simple depictions ofpsychoactive chemicals and the people who use them, these recognized experts explain how modern research in many fields reveals a complex interaction between people, situations, and substances. Their work demonstrates that only a multitude of approaches can show the nuances of subjectiveexperience, and that each substance may create a different effect with every administration in each user. Simple references to physiological underpinnings or positive reinforcement fail to explain the diverse responses to drugs. However, research has progressed to reveal broad, repeatable evidencethat the subjective effects of substances play an important role in our understanding of drug abuse, and so should inform our decisions about policy. This thorough and accessible review of the subjective effects of drugs and the dominant theories behind those effects will provide a wealth of information about the experience of intoxication for lay readers, and a road map to studies in other disciples for student and professionalresearchers.

Excerpt

A parsimonious and intuitive theory of substance abuse relies on the idea that drugs create changes in subjective states that users find reinforcing. a clear understanding of individual differences in these subjective changes can help researchers investigate the etiology of substance abuse. Links between subjective and neurological changes during intoxication also reveal valuable information about the brain mechanisms involved in alterations of consciousness. in addition, frank discussions of these changes in mood, sensations, and consciousness can help substance abusers sort the pros and cons of their drug consumption in therapeutic ways. Nevertheless, researchers and clinicians familiar with drugs often do not know the best way to describe or quantify their subjective effects.

At least a third of Americans have used an illicit drug at least once. Drugs attract considerable attention in science, legislation, and the media. Nevertheless, people develop their attitudes about drugs and drug users based on limited information. Government policies form without a complete picture of the intoxication experience, too. Researchers often find themselves divided into camps based on the drug they study most often (e.g., the Research Society on Alcoholism), limiting their ability to benefit from important work done on other drugs.

A thorough and accessible review of the subjective effects of drugs and the dominant theories behind these effects will help inform readers about the experience of intoxication and help researchers learn from studies in other disciplines. I sincerely hope that readers will finish this book with a clear sense of the theories and techniques behind the investigations of intoxication and how subjective experiences relate to addictive potential. This work should help people make educated . . .

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