One of the main risk factors for death and disability worldwide is the use of intoxicants (alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs). We know a great deal about the individual and social factors that influence the use of drugs. However, we are largely unaware of the factors and mechanisms that contribute to losing and regaining control over drug use. Because addictive behavior is characterized by a lack of control over use, a better understanding of these factors and mechanisms is critical to better treat people with addiction disorders in the future.
This is exactly our research approach. The main goals of our research consortium are to identify triggers and modifying factors that modulate the course of real-life loss and regaining of control over drug use, and to investigate the neurobiological mechanisms involved."
Professor Michael Smolka, Head of the Systemic Neuroscience Research Area
In this context, age, gender, physical activity and cognitive control are given great importance. "In the end, we don't want to move away from all practices," the Dresden researcher added. One focus of the upcoming work is to develop and test interventions that specifically target underlying mechanisms to regain control over substance use.
The particular innovative potential of our joint research project comprising Dresden researchers from the Faculty of Psychology and the Faculty of Medicine at TU Dresden as well as the Carl Gustav Carus University Hospital together with colleagues from Charité Berlin and the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim is based on three recent insights in addiction research:
- To understand the progression from controlled to dependent drug use as a continuum that does not preclude recovery.
- To develop a computational model of behavior related to the loss and regaining of control over drug use that can reveal important computational steps (e.g., prediction errors) and their neurobiological correlates in relation to learning, stress reactivity, and cognitive control.
- To promote technological advances in mobile health tools (e.g., using smartphones or sensors) which allow the recording of cognitive and emotional states, substance use, and environmental factors in everyday life. On this basis, risk situations could be identified and those affected could be warned.