Posted: February 15th, 2022
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Addiction is the habitual, recurrent use of a substance without regard to the negative impacts on the users (Kuhn et al., n.d). When drugs enter the brain, the drugs usually start to alter the normal brain function by attacking the network of neurons and synapses found inside the brain (Garofalo, n.d 1:20-130). An example is when cocaine is first introduced to the brain; it quickly blocks dopamine transportation by blocking its reentry into the presynaptic cell and begins to accumulate within the synapse. Abnormal dopamine levels in the synapse lead to hyperactivation, leading to the development of feelings of Euphoria (SEIServices 2014, 6:20-6:50). In general, the impact of a drug on the brain relies on its effectiveness in manipulating synaptic transmissions across different stages of the process.
Causes of addiction
People typically become addicted due to the brain’s capacity for plasticity, where it keeps on undergoing a persistent change in response to the prevailing environment inputs. This process is commonly referred to as learning which, according to Grisel (2019), is the neural cause of addiction. Thus, the brain begins adapting to a drug on the first encounter, whereby the brain cells start to adapt to counteract the actions of the drugs. Additionally, drug addiction is caused by the drug’s ability to block the reentry of dopamine into the presynaptic cell hence releasing feelings of pleasure. Thus, the higher feelings of pleasure a drug can produce, the higher the propensity one is likely to be addicted to a drug.
Possible treatments and solutions to addiction
The opponent-process theory by Solomon and Corbit emphasizes that feeling states related to drugs are normally maintained around a set point. Thus the nervous system struggles to maintain homeostasis by counteracting any changes in feelings perpetrated by an external stimulus (Grisel, 2019). Therefore, to overcome addiction, there needs to be the reverse of the inequilibrium between process A and B to a set point by slowly letting the signal fade away. This suggests reducing the number of drugs undertaken by individuals, allowing the brain to counteract and eventually produce its signals in the opposite direction (Grisel, 2019). This method helps to eradicate addiction more naturally and sustainably.
Garofalo, S. (n.d.). How do drugs affect the brain? [Video]. TEDEd. https://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-do-drugs-affect-the-brain-sara-garofalo#review
Grisel, J. (2019). Never enough. The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction, 37-57.
Kuhn, C., Swartzwelder, S., & Wilson, W. (n.d.). Buzzed: The straight facts about the most used and abused drugs, from alcohol to ecstasy. Choice Reviews Online, 36(01), 36-0361-36-0361. https://doi.org/10.5860/choice.36-0361
SEIServices. (2014). Brain Reward: Understanding How the Brain Responds to Natural Rewards and Drugs of Abuse [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VUlKP4LDyQ&t=380s
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