Maia Szalavitz is a freelance writer on neuroscience and addictions whose articles have been published in the
New York Times, the Washington Post, New York Magazine, and Newsweek. Her most recent book is Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead Books, 2005). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why Not a National Institute on Pain Research?
Today, patients who once would have lived in chronic pain or died in agony can be helped because research has debunked many myths about our most potent pain medication: opioids. Even long-term treatment with opioids seldom leads to addiction, and research has taught us much about how opioids act in the brain. Now, research is opening entirely new avenues for pain relief. But a pioneer in pain research and treatment warns that future progress requires much greater public understanding and more informed government regulation.
Paradoxical ProfileAlcohol’s Risks and Benefits
Alcohol is a Janus-faced substance, and this two-sided nature seems to stem largely from its effects on the brain.
What is “Hope” for a Patient with a Deadly Brain Tumor?
The Brain Tumor Center at Duke University is known for its aggressive approach to treating brain tumors in patients who have, at best, a 10-15 percent chance of survival. Some of the strategies: initiating more clinical trials than virtually any other tumor treatment center in the world, using drugs “off label,” and performing operations many surgeons will not attempt. Friedman talks about the center’s approach, the ethical issues, and the impact on patients and families.
Patients Have Been Too Patient With Basic Research
Steinman has devoted his long career to pioneering studies of immunology. Basic research of this kind has been hugely productive, he says, but its potential benefits for treating serious illnesses are taking too long to reach patients. We are failing to maintain a crucial transmission belt between basic research and clinical applications: the physician-scientist. We must take immediate and effective steps to reverse this trend, because our lives “may one day depend upon the progress of medicine.”
The Brain-Immunology Axis
Scientists are realizing that the new frontier in protecting human health may lie at the interface between the nervous system and the immune system.