The complexities of contemporary life shape alternatives for man that are frequently bewildering and often frustrating. As a social pharmacologist, I am aware of the deep and divisive social problems that arise from the abuse of alcohol and opiates, both on the macrosocial level and on the level of the family unit and the individual personality. I am also acutely conscious of the human tragedies, the shattered family relationships, the chaotic breakdown in interpersonal communications and understanding, and all the rest of the drug and alcohol abuse phenomenology that tears asunder the fabric of normal social relationships.
It is perhaps an oversimplification to state that before we can achieve adequate means of coping with society's problems of alcohol abuse and drug dependency, we must focus our efforts on the need for scientific investigation and the analysis of scientific data relating to all aspects of the neurochemical and behavioral mechanisms involved. It is a valid observation that there has been far, too much heat and too little light generated in this area since the emotional revelations and excitement of the "psychedelic" 1960s and early 1970s.
Basic research can provide the key to understanding the similarities and differences that exist between alcohol and other drugs. While there may be no ultimate answers contained in the findings presented in the following chapters, it is clear that the sheer juxtaposition of alcohol and opiates, viewed both from the neurochemical and behavioral perspectives, represents a "state-of-the-art" look at a comprehensive cross section of recent scientific inquiry. It is an interdisciplinary approach with value not only in terms of scientific content, but also as historical record.
The idea for this book was an outgrowth of a symposium I had the good fortune to chair at the National Drug Abuse Conference held in New York during May, 1976. Thanks to the encouragement and far-sighted planning of Drs. Joyce Lowenson and Frank Seixas, the symposium on "Neurochemical and Behavioral Mechanisms of Alcohol and Opiates" drew multifaceted expertise across a wide spectrum of scientific disciplines, and focused attention on a growing body of knowledge that deserves wider circulation.
This book represents a personal "breakthrough" of sorts, in that it is the first attempt we know of to compile a comprehensive overview that addresses the commonalities and distinctions of alcohol and opiates, within a framework both of neurochemical and behavioral mechanisms. While the book is not written for the unsophisticated in scientific investigation and inquiry, I am hopeful that this endeavor and following works may eventually provide the kind of scientific base needed on which to build clinical programs designed to alleviate the sociological and medical ills generated by alcohol and opiate abuse and drug dependency. Perhaps such efforts may also lead someday to correcting some of the misunderstanding and myth-based ignorance that prevails in the formation of society's opinions and prejudices regarding the drug and alcohol abuser. After all, unless scientific inquiry, which serves the truth, leads ultimately to public enlightenment, then to what end do we labor?