Understanding the Brain’s Addiction to Drugs

addictionAddiction is a destructive force in both the addicted individual and his/her family. Given the negative impressions and outcomes that can result from addiction, people sometimes assume it would be easy to just say no.

But the danger of addiction lies in the fact that it can bring cravings and other withdrawal symptoms, which go to specific parts of the individual’s brain.

The change from hobby to habit

Each time a person uses any kind of addictive substance, it brings him/her closer to addiction, because each time brings an intense surge of dopamine in the brain.

There are two main factors that contribute to the development of an addiction. The first is the intensity of the release of dopamine, which can change if the individual’s tolerance for the substance becomes stronger. The second is how the speed of delivering the surge of dopamine can increase the likelihood of addiction.

Different drugs are administered in different ways and the method of intake determines how quickly the substance reaches the blood stream and thus how quickly dopamine is released in the brain.

Why is it hard to break the addiction?

In addition to the brain’s powerful reactions and cravings, other reasons why those with addiction tend to linger in the bad habit may be due to a desire to escape from daily life or a misguided belief that drugs can improve life.

Dopamine also adversely affects other key processes in the brain – motivation and memory. Both of these can play a role in addiction.

There is a theory of addiction that states that dopamine also interacts with glutamate, and this interaction may affect the brain’s overall learning system about positive and negative consequences. Essentially it can mess with the way the brain thinks about danger and survival, and repeated exposure to drugs may trigger a more intense drive that can turn the mere sampling of a drug into a greater craving.

Reminders of the past make it even harder

Another reason why addiction can be hard to beat is that simple, everyday items can trigger strong memories and reactions. Things like a syringe, a bottle of beer, or another vessel/device, can easily remind those with addiction problems of their previous habit. This kind of memory trigger is why the battle against an addiction can become a long-term endeavor.

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