Neurochemistry: The Science Behind Addiction and How The Brain Functions
The neurochemistry of the brain can provide more than elaborate functioning for a human being – it can give an accurate explanation as to why people act on certain behaviors when others do not. What makes a person addicted to a drug and unable to stray away from the mental, physical, and emotional obsession of abusing it? Why do certain people feel compelled to take more of and continuously use a specific drug? What is going on with the neurochemistry of the brain during these obsessive impulses? Questions like these have provoked a growth in scientific research on the disease of addiction and display why addiction is more recently viewed as an illness versus a moral dilemma.
Understanding Neurochemistry to Treat Addiction
While neurochemistry scientists have discovered that addicts abuse drugs for the sole purpose of providing them the experience of the chemical dopamine being released to cause a sense of pleasure, addiction still raises numerous inquiries. Research has also proven that the addicts’ craving of pleasure can correlate not only with drug abuse, but with other elements like food, intimacy, or water, which all also affect the brain’s reward system. Neurochemistry scientists like Tod Kippin believe that eventually there will be more efficient methods of treatment that target addicted individuals. By pinpointing people who are susceptible to the disease, Kippin hopes to discover characteristics that contribute to addiction and how the alterations resulting from the use of drugs affects those characteristics. With the research shown on his study on the effects that drug addiction has on the brain’s structural compounds, Kippin and his team have come up with the theory that some people may have more likelihood of exposure to addiction due to the difference in their metabolic profile. This means that someone’s physical components make them able to break down a drug a certain way that may be different than how another person’s body would. Kippin went on to say that his research is “not enough to understand the levels of the compound that is administered” and that more studies will need to be done in order “to understand all the other compounds that are produced and how they’re working together.” He relates studies like this not just to addiction, but also to reasoning behind why people are prone to obesity, specific memory functioning, and Alzheimers Disease.
More On Dopamine
Dopamine is of particular interest to neurochemistry scientists because it is the major neurotransmitter manipulated with drug use. When a person has taken drugs like heroin or opiates, their dopamine surges and the high becomes more difficult to achieve on the amount of the drug they used to take, which is why the addict winds up taking more of the drug than previously to achieve that same feeling. The addict may not realize it but they are affecting the functioning of their brain and altering its chemical structure to achieve that high. This stage of drug intoxification can spur the cycle of addiction by leading to cravings, rapid excessive use, and withdrawal. Each of these stages plays a role in the neurochemistry of addiction. Cravings can be attributed to the memory stored in the amygdala and hippocampal portions of the brain, as well as other functioning properties that drive the triggering urge to use. Uncontrollable, repetitive use by binging involves similar circuitry, in addition to the manipulation of serotonin, another neurotransmitter like dopamine but which instead regulates mood. Behavioral circuits are set off to create irritability and depression for withdrawal due to the improper functioning resulting from the addict having used and stopped taking the drug. The chemistry of the brain is set to function a specific way, so abusing drugs throws all these compounds off.
When dopamine is not functioning properly in the brain, impulsivity can be heightened in a person. Impulsive behavior is directly linked to what may make a person more inclined to addiction after abusing a drug for the first time. Over-the-top risky actions, impatience, and mental diseases go along with impulsivity. All of these combined can be factors of as to why a person may be prone to addiction once picking up a drug.
All in all, if the neurochemistry of an addict’s brain can be orchestrated to or reverted back to a healthy balance, the addict may have a better chance at abstaining from the use of drugs. For now and until more research is done, the best way to treat a drug addiction is to seek an inpatient drug rehabilitation center where you can go through medical detoxification and work with professionals to achieve recovery.
If you are battling an addiction, call The Watershed today at 1-800-861-1768 for more information.