The hijacked brain

Addiction is a devastating disease that alters the brain's circuitry, notably in young adults. But the changes need not be permanent: improved understanding of them will help in developing ways to lessen the burden. By Margaret Munro. See a Nature Video at go.nature.com/e1gqkk.

Credit: BSIP SA/Alamy

DANGEROUS AGE

Many people have their first experience of drugs at a young age, placing them at high risk of addiction. The developing brain may not form properly under the influence of drugs or alcohol7.

HIGH COST OF A HABIT

The estimated annual cost of health care associated with substance misuse in the United States7.

  • 27 MILLION people had problematic drug use3 in 2012.

  • 183,000 drug-related deaths were reported in 2012.

  • 1 BILLION or more people smoke, with the majority living in low- to middle-income countries4.

  • 6 MILLION smokers die every year; more than 5 million of the deaths are directly related to tobacco use4.

  • 38.3% of the global population drinks alcohol, with an annual average of 17 litres per person4.

  • 3.3 MILLION deaths in 2012 were attributed to alcohol consumption4.

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Munro, M. The hijacked brain. Nature 522, S46–S47 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/522S46a

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