“We have an opioid epidemic that looks like it’s going to be deadlier than AIDS, but the criminal justice system handles drug addiction in almost exactly opposite of what neuroscience and other behavioral sciences would suggest,”
said Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and one of the leaders of the Stanford Neurosciences Institute’s Neurochoice Big Idea initiative.
With 1 in 8 deaths globally due to the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, the director-general of the World Health Organization recently called for more scientifically informed public policies regarding addiction.
In the United States, where an average of 91 people per day die of opioid overdose, a presidential task force is to present, on 27 June, policy recommendations to combat opioid addiction, although the House of Representatives passed an Affordable Care Act repeal bill that would withdraw health insurance from two million people with addictions.
Despite these urgent challenges, research on the brain and its interactions with the environment, which can help policymakers advance more effective and humane policies than some traditional approaches to addiction, has only occasionally been applied in public policy.