Psychoactive drug use in evolutionary perspective

Randolph M. Nesse, Kent C. Berridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

211 Scopus citations

Abstract

Pure psychoactive drugs and direct routes of administration are evolutionarily novel features of our environment. They are inherently pathogenic because they bypass adaptive information processing systems and act directly on ancient brain mechanisms that control emotion and behavior. Drugs that induce positive emotions give a false signal of a fitness benefit. This signal hijacks incentive mechanisms of 'liking' and 'wanting,' and can result in continued use of drugs that no longer bring pleasure. Drugs that block negative emotions can impair useful defenses, although there are several reasons why their use is often safe nonetheless. A deeper understanding of the evolutionary origins and functions of the emotions and their neural mechanisms is needed as a basis for decisions about the use of psychoactive drugs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-66
Number of pages4
JournalScience
Volume278
Issue number5335
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 3 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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