The Science of Addiction
Scientists continually find ‘addiction’ a topic of fascination. With misconceptions floating around, scientists were and still are, determined to figure out the science behind the disease that is an addiction. In former decades, many people saw addiction as a disorder that could be controlled by merely refraining from using drugs. It was a mentality that focused on whether or not an individual had enough willpower to overcome their addiction. If they didn’t, they were thought of as weak. Fast-forward to modern-day science, and that is far from the reality of addiction.
Recent groundbreaking findings have allowed our views of addiction to be altered by discovering unknown facts about this compulsive disorder. Over the years, it has come to be known that addiction is, in fact, a disease, contrary to popular belief. It is a disease of the brain that has biological and environmental roots which aid in the progressive nature of the disease.
With the knowledge that scientists have gained in learning that addiction can very well have a genetic, environmental, and hereditary connection, they are better able to develop powerful treatment techniques.
The Importance of Studying Drug Addiction
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and alcohol addiction, including both prescription and illegal drugs, cost Americans more than $700 billion a year (Source). It’s important that individuals are aware of, not only the health repercussions of substance abuse and addiction but also its effects on those around us as well as the drainage on the healthcare system.
Science has discovered that drug use has a substantial effect on:
- Babies: Infants can be born addicts if the mother was using during pregnancy.
- Teenagers: Youth who use are at higher risk of dropping out of school where they begin to partake in risky behavior.
- Adults: Adults who use are at risk of losing their jobs and sacrificing close family relationships while also indulging in a lifestyle that will never benefit their future.
- Parents: Parents who use often favor their addiction over their responsibilities and their children. In turn, a chaotic, unhappy, and stressful home is often a result.
Scientists work to analyze the effects on the various parts of the brain when one is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They look at how consuming a certain substance alters the brains chemistry which in turn has an effect on their behavior and attitude. They then study the progression of the frequency in use of the drug in order to determine how much more often an addict has to take the substance in order to feel ‘normal’, also referred to as ‘high’. One can become addicted to drugs in as little as one single experiment with drugs or alcohol and whether or not you become addicted is dependent on a variety of genetic and environmental factors. With the gatherings that they find, they are able to develop recovery and treatment programs that can assist addicts in overcoming addiction.
What is Drug Addiction?
Drug addiction, or any addiction for that matter, is considered a brain disease. This is because of the impact that drugs have on the brain itself as it alters the structure of it and can cause permanent damage to the brain.
When looking at a cat scan of a healthy brain compared to a brain of a drug abuse, there are substantial differences. There is decreased metabolism in the brain of a person that uses drugs while also deteriorating three main parts of the brain:
- The limbic system
- The brain stem
- The cerebral cortex
Over time and with prolonged use of drugs, individuals become addicted. Once they are addicted, their brain is damaged either temporarily or permanently depending on the length of time of the addiction. Over the course of an addict’s life, neurons begin to lessen in quantity and thus fewer dopamine receptors produce the chemical dopamine since the addict is giving the brain synthetic dopamine by virtue of using drugs. In turn, when an addict is not using, their brain is relying on the patient to supply it synthetic dopamine and when that is not given, depression, anger, and withdrawal begin. These symptoms will last until the brain receives the drug of choice.
If you or someone you know is dependent on drugs and seeking help, contact WhiteSands Treatment today.