GUELPH POLITICAST #112 – Dr. Francesco Leri, Addiction Specialist

The University of Guelph posted on its website: “Looking for an Expert on the Impact of Opioids on Learning and Memory? U of G Is The Place,” and I thought, “Well, I’m not *looking* for such an expert, but if the University is offering…” A couple of emails later, and you’re on your way to learning about the latest research into how the brain gets hooked on drugs, and not just drugs, but any sort of addictive behaviour.

Dr. Francesco Leri is the Chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Guelph. He’s an expert in Behavioural Pharmacology and Neuroscience, which is a way of saying, he “investigates psychological and neuropharmacological mechanisms involved in the development, persistence and recurrence of behaviours reinforced by chemical and natural rewards.” In other words, he studies how behaviour and biology teaches our brains to get addicted, whether that’s drugs, chocolate, sex, thrill-seeking or whatever.

To what end? Well, you may have heard of the province’s ongoing crisis with opioids. In Ontario, someone dies from an opioid overdose every 10 hours; over a three-year period, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health clocked 30 deaths in our area from overdoses. It’s a serious public health issue, and while politicians and frontline health staff are doing all they can to help people, understanding the biology and psychology of addiction may be the best long-term solution.

This week on the podcast we get scientific. Dr. Leri takes us into his research and how it’s actually pretty hard to get your brain hooked on drugs, and even harder to get your brain unhooked. We also talks about the difficulty in treating addiction because of everyone’s own unique experiences and biology, and how addiction rewrites the brain. We also talk about how our high sugar diets might be contributing to our susceptibility to addiction later on, and finally, philosophically, we talk about whether or not addiction is a disease the way we understand it.

So let’s talk about drugs, and how and why some of us get hooked with deadly consequences, on this week’s Guelph Politicast.

You can read Dr. Leri’s article “Sugar in the diet may increase risks of opioid addiction” at the Conversation.com. You can also check out Ontario’s Narcotics Strategy, including changes made to the availability of OxyContin, here.

The theme music for the Guelph Politicast is from the KPM Klassics collection by Syd Dale.

The host for the Guelph Politicast is Podbean. Find more episodes of the Politicast here.

Remember that the Politicast Podbean channel is also the host for podcast versions of Open Sources Guelph. The previous Thursday’s episode of Open Sources will be posted on Mondays.

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