Dr. Nora Volkow is the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and she recently attended the Mind and Life Conference on Craving, Desire and Addiction in Dharamsala, India, where she was able to meet with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. Dr. Volkow wrote about her experience at her blog and commented on her perception of understanding.
Dr. Volkow typically is almost exclusively devoted to everything having to do with the brain, as evident not only by her continuous line of research, but also in her blog post. While neurological research and discoveries have certainly advanced the understanding and treatment of addiction, it is interesting to read her comprehension of trying to grasp the concepts that the mind and spirituality can overcome even the seemingly physical limitations of brain function. She did at least acknowledge positive research regarding the benefits of meditation for quitting smoking.
Where both the good doctor and His Holiness agreed though, was that prevention and education is key to ending the suffering from addiction by stopping it before it starts. The more our youth know and understand about addiction, their minds and brains as well as their own spirituality and relationship with their environments, the greater chance they have to avoid the trap altogether. Where this conference appears to excel is at the integration of multiple fields of discipline and how we all can learn from each other in some way.
According to their website, “the mission of the Mind & Life Institute is to alleviate suffering and to promote human flourishing. We seek to achieve these broad goals in specific ways, especially by bringing together scientists, contemplatives, and scholars in order to deepen our insights into the causes of suffering and the means by which we can support human life at its most holistic.”
Here is a video of the opening session of the conference with an introduction from the Dalai Lama himself: