Monday, November 17, 2014

Addiction Explained

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Psychologist Dr. Brad Lander explains through a screening of a video of why addicts behave the way they do.

In the video, laboratory rats have electrodes connected to their nucleus accumbens, which is a small part of the brain that regulates feelings of pleasure and motivation. This part of the brain plays a fundamental part in depression as well as addiction.

The video shows rats pressing a bar in their cages that sends a signal through the electrodes to the nucleus accumbens, which stimulates pleasure. The rats become compulsive and do nothing but press the bar until they die. The rats even cross an electrified grid to reach the bar, showing that they will do anything to get the feeling of pleasure at all costs.

Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center’s clinical director of addiction psychiatry, Lander, understands that people are more complicated than rats, but when humans and rats become addicted, he says both show signs of “squirrel logic.”

Lander said, “anything that stimulates the reward pathway is going to be interpreted as something necessary for life and needs to be repeated. Your squirrel brain wants what it wants. It doesn’t understand future. It doesn’t understand consequences. it doesn’t understand the impact of its behavior. It wants to run, it wants to jump, it wants to hit, it wants to scream.”

Introducing addictive behavior or substances triggers the brain to squirrel logic, which can set off a chain reaction of biological and chemical transformations. Dopamine floods the system, which produces a rapturous feeling that stops the body from absorbing the serotonin imperative to regulate emotional response.

The body cannot “download” memories during a good nights rest because many addicts do not rest properly. The brain starts to form actual craters in the brain, and brain activity slowly nose-dives over time.

Judgement, impulse control, perception, and learning become impaired, and endorphin production almost stops working, which leaves the addict more vulnerable to emotional and physical pain. The substance abuser becomes a different animal, one that his friends and family does not recognize anymore.

Although addiction can consume us and even kill us, many substance abusers have recovered. Orman Hall, director of the Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team in Ohio says, “the human brain is very malleable. As serious as the effects of someone engaging in addiction is, many people show improvement if we provide the right kind of environment and the right kind of treatment.”

If you are struggling with addiction, there are many substance abuse treatment centers available to help. It’s never too late to start the road to recovery and get your life back on track.

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