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Influence of Addiction on Brain

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“Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.”

Carl Jung


What is addiction?


Addiction is a psychological and physical inability of a person to consume or avoid a chemical, drug, activity, or substance, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm.
The term addiction does not only refer to dependence on substances such as heroin or cocaine. A person who cannot stop taking a particular drug or chemical has a substance dependence.

What is addiction?

Addiction is a psychological and physical inability of a person to consume or avoid a chemical, drug, activity, or substance, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm.

The term addiction does not only refer to dependence on substances such as heroin or cocaine. A person who cannot stop taking a particular drug or chemical has a substance dependence.

Some addictions also involve an inability to stop partaking in activities, such as gambling, over eating, or excess working, shopping too much or even excess use of commuters or internet. In these circumstances, a person has a behavioral addiction.

When people experiences addiction, they cannot control how they use a substance or partake in an activity, and they become dependent on it to cope with daily life.

Addiction is just a way of trying to get at something else. Something bigger. Call it transcendence if you want, but it’s like a rat in a maze. We all want the same thing. We all have this hole. The thing you want offers relief, but it’s a trap.”     

Tess Callahan

How Addiction Hijacks the Brain?

Addiction involves craving for something intensely, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences. Addiction changes the brain, first by subverting the way it registers pleasure and then by corrupting other normal drives such as learning and motivation. Although breaking an addiction is tough, it can be done. It is possible to get rid of addiction.

The word “addiction” is derived from a Latin term for “enslaved by” or “bound to.” Anyone who has struggled to overcome an addiction—or has tried to help someone else to do so—understands why.

Addiction exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain that manifests in three distinct ways:

  • craving for the object of addiction
  • loss of control over its use, and
  • Continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences.

Previously it was believed by experts that only alcohol and powerful drugs could cause addiction. Neuro imaging technologies and more recent research, however, have shown that certain pleasurable activities, such as gambling, shopping, and sex, can also co-opt the brain. And the newly addiction from child neither a child nor an adult can’t escape is of the increasing mobile usage.

How addiction is acquired?

Addiction is formed due to two main factors of pleasure or pain. These factors play an important or on the initial stage of the addiction. A person initially starts adapting a particular habit with an intension to achieve a sense of happiness/pleasure or to go away from some kind of uneasiness or pain they are currently phasing in their life. As emotions play a vital role in every person’s life.

The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a psychoactive drug, a monetary reward, a sexual encounter, or a satisfying meal. In the brain, pleasure has a distinct signature: the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of nerve cells lying underneath the cerebral cortex (see illustration). Dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens is so consistently tied with pleasure that neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain’s pleasure center.

Scientists once believed that the experience of pleasure alone was enough to prompt people to continue seeking an addictive substance or activity. But more recent research suggests that the situation is more complicated. Dopamine not only contributes to the experience of pleasure, but also plays a role in learning and memory—two key elements in the transition from liking something to becoming addicted to it.

According to the current theory about addiction, dopamine interacts with another neurotransmitter, glutamate, to take over the brain’s system of reward-related learning. This system has an important role in sustaining life because it links activities needed for human survival (such as eating) with pleasure and reward.

The reward circuit in the brain includes areas involved with motivation and memory as well as with pleasure. Addictive substances and behaviors stimulate the same circuit—and then overload it.

The Rewards Pathway

In nature, rewards usually come only with time and effort. Addictive drugs and behaviors provide a shortcut, flooding the brain with dopamine and other neurotransmitters. Our brains do not have an easy way to withstand the onslaught.

Addictive drugs, for example, can release 2 to 10 times the amount of dopamine that natural rewards do, and they do it more quickly and more reliably. In a person who becomes addicted, brain receptors become overwhelmed. The brain responds by producing less dopamine or eliminating dopamine receptors—an adaptation similar to turning the volume down on a loudspeaker when noise becomes too loud.

As a result of these adaptations, dopamine has less impact on the brain’s reward center. People who develop an addiction typically find that, in time, the desired substance no longer gives them as much pleasure. They have to take more of it to obtain the same dopamine “high” because their brains have adapted—an effect known as tolerance.

Habit Formation

At this point, compulsion takes over. The pleasure associated with an addictive drug or behavior subsides—and yet the memory of the desired effect and the need to recreate it (the wanting) persists. It’s as though the normal machinery of motivation is no longer functioning.

The learning process mentioned earlier also comes into play. The hippocampus and the amygdala store information about environmental cues associated with the desired substance, so that it can be located again. These memories help create a conditioned response—intense craving—whenever the person encounters those environmental cues.

Cravings contribute not only to addiction but to relapse after a hard-won sobriety. A person addicted to heroin may be in danger of relapse when he sees a hypodermic needle, for example, while another person might start to drink again after seeing a bottle of whiskey. Conditioned learning helps explain why people who develop an addiction risk relapse even after years of abstinence.

The good new is that addictions can be overcome with the help of Neuro linguistic Programming.

To know  more ….. . Check my next blog on how to get rid of addiction.

Mugdha is a NLP master practitioner and students' mind coach. She is excellent in teaching memory techniques to students and enable them to enjoy learning.