Drug Addicts Are Less Sensitive to Negative Messages, Study Shows

Substance-addicts' brain is less active when it comes to risk assessment

A study conducted by scientists at Indiana University and Wayne State University reveals that drug and alcohol dependents are less responsive to negative messages.

This immunity turns negatively structured persuasive discourses ineffective.

Researchers observed the response of substance addict people's brain to different messages, comparing them to the impact the same messages had on non-addict subjects.

Neuroimaging techniques have been used in the research, EurekAlert reports.

“The findings are somewhat ironic because a whole lot of public service announcements say, 'Drugs are bad for you,' 'Just say no,' or 'This is your brain on drugs' with an image of an egg frying,” said research leader Joshua Brown, professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the College of Arts and Sciences in Bloomington.

“What we're seeing is that negative messages are not having the same impact on the brain,” he added.

Scientists also tried to determine which portion of the circuit message-brain-behavior was affected in substance dependents' case.

They used the Iowa Gambling Task to find the answer, a game commonly practiced in experiments on decision-making.

The game consisted of four decks of cards presented on a screen and a chance offered to the participants to win or lose money, depending on the deck they choose.

It was noted that the drug-dependent team didn't show much interest to the warning that choosing a wrong deck would make them lose.

Scientists concluded that it was a problem of brain activity. The part of the brain responsive for risk estimation was less active in the substance-addicts.

Scientists believe the study brings a great contribution to the large investigation field of substance abuse disorders. A following research is planned to show the effect of positive messages on substance-dependent people.

“The government spends millions every year trying to discourage drug use, and a lot of the ads highlight the dangers of drugs,” said Prof Brown.

“Should we spend more to highlight the benefits of staying clean instead?”

The study was published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors and can also be found online in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors (DOI: 10.1037/a0030633).

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