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Health Capsules
April 2007
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What Causes Addiction?

Substance abuse, including tobacco addiction, affects people of all ages, contributing to more than 500,000 deaths each year in the U.S.  Why do some people become addicted, while others don’t?  How do drugs affect the brain?  How can addiction be prevented and treated?  The answers to these questions can be found in a new 30-page booklet called Drugs, Brain and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.  The booklet, published by NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, offers easy-to-understand explanations of what scientists have discovered about drug addiction, its prevention and treatment.

Addiction can change the structure of the brain and how it works.  That’s why scientists say that drug addiction is a brain disease and not simply a lack of willpower.  Researchers have shown that people with drug addiction can have changes in brain regions that are important for judgment, decision-making, memory and controlling behavior.  These changes can be long-lasting.

Like other chronic diseases, drug addiction can be successfully treated.  As researchers have discovered more about how drugs affect the brain and behavior, they’ve also developed more effective treatments and prevention plans.  Scientists have learned that the teenage years are a critical time for preventing drug addiction.

You can read The Science of Addiction online at  You can also request a free copy by email at or by calling the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at 1-800-729-6686.

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  Greenery, Groceries and Childrenís Weight

Where a child lives—the greenery of the landscape and the distance to supermarkets—is related to the risk for excess pounds, according to a recent study.

In a study of more than 7,000 children, NIH-funded researchers found that children living in urban areas were less likely to be overweight if their neighborhood had more greenery.  Children in suburban regions had less risk for excess weight if they lived closer to major supermarkets. 

The findings suggest that access to green spaces may encourage physical activity and that access to major food stores may enable healthier diets.

Although previous studies have found that adults living closer to fast-food chains and convenience stores are at greater risk for being overweight, the current study found no evidence that the same holds true for children.

“As a pediatrician, I hope this study will encourage neighborhood organizations, community activists and others to bring more opportunities for physical activities and healthy food choices to the places where children live,” said the study’s lead investigator, Dr. Gilbert C. Liu of Indiana University School of Medicine.

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A Healthy Mouth for Your Baby

As soon as a baby’s grin shows its first sign of tiny teeth, it’s time to start taking care of them.  This site has basic information about protecting babies’ teeth, with tips about cleaning teeth and feeding kids healthy food.  Also available in Spanish.

From NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

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