—PART 2— The Addicted Brain: Beyond Willpower…

By: Dr. Jigsaw Quietus (AKA; George Bilunka) <[email protected]>

The human brain is a complex, fine-tuned communications network that contains billions of specialized cells called neurons. These neurons give origin to our thoughts, emotions, perceptions, and drives. Often, a drug is taken the first time by choice—to feel pleasure, or to relieve depression or stress. But this notion of choice is short-lived. Why? Because repeated drug use disrupts the once-well-balanced system in the brain in ways that persist, eventually replacing the brain’s natural needs and desires with a one-track mission to seek and use drugs. At this point, the addicted brain’s nature-based desires and motives will have a hard time competing with the desire for the drug, says; Dr. Nora D. Volkow, M.D.; appointed Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDI). Dr. Volkow is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on Drug Addiction and brain imaging. She has received numerous awards for significant scientific and public service achievements. How the Brain becomes Addicted: Drugs of abuse activate the same brain circuits as do behaviors linked to survival, such as eating, bonding, and sex. Drugs cause a surge in levels of a neurotransmitter called “dopamine”, which generates feelings of pleasure. The brain remembers this pleasure and wants it repeated. Just as food is linked to day-to-day living, drugs begin to take on the same significance for the addicted brain. The need to obtain and take drugs become more important than any other need, including behaviors, like eating, which is truly necessary for survival. After continuous drug use, the user no longer seeks the drug for the reward of a “fabricated” pleasure, but more so to relieve the distress and discomfort that is being generated by their brain. Eventually, the individual with the addicted brain develops a persistent drive to seek and use drugs, and that is all that matters, despite any devastating consequences. Control and choice and everything that once held value in that person’s life, such as family, school, a job, the community, even their significant other, are all lost to the dysfunction of their brain. Research on addiction is helping us find out just how drugs change the way the brain works. These changes include; reduced dopamine activity. We all depend on our brain’s ability to release dopamine for us to experience pleasure, which motivates our responses to the natural rewards of everyday life, such as the sight and smell of food. Drugs of abuse produce very large and rapid dopamine surges, and the brain’s self-defense mechanism responds by reducing natural dopamine activity. Eventually, the disrupted dopamine system renders the individual incapable of feeling any significant pleasure, even from the drugs they seek to reduce or eliminate the brain’s crippling craving. Another change is in altering brain regions that control decision-making and judgment. Drugs of abuse affect the regions of the brain that help us control our desires and emotions. The resulting lack of control leads the addicted person, compulsively pursuing drugs, even when the drugs have lost their power to reward. Come back for more insight…

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