A Cure For Addiction?

alcohol

Straight from the Journal of Neuroscience.

There may be a way to switch off the urge for compulsive drinking, according to a new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute.

“We can completely reverse alcohol dependence by targeting a network of neurons”

Long story short, the National Institutes on Health (NIH) and on Drug Abuse (NIDA) sponsored these studies and the results tell us a number of things:

1. Yes, addiction is a brain disease
2. There are very specified circuitry of the brain that is responsible for it.

The findings, published in the September 7 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, built on previous studies showing that frequent alcohol use can activate specific groups of neurons. The more a person drinks, the more they reinforce activation in the neuronal “circuit,” which then drives further alcohol use and addiction. It appears that the brain carves a special pathway between alcohol and reward.
I refer to this specified path as “The Beast Brain” – All the pre-cognitive instincts that assure survival (the need to breathe, nourish, shelter, sleep, drink, and ensure the continuation of the species) are part of the Beast brain.

In lay terms, we are our own biochemistry. Certain chemicals in the brain reinforce something we do repeatedly. Addictions are the result of circuitry gone wrong, causing compulsive use (reward) despite negative consequences.

TSRI Research Associate Giordano de Guglielmo, who was the study’s first author, spearheaded the experiment using alcohol-dependent rats. They were able to discover, and then alter, a very specific collection of neurons that were activated by alcohol. The rats gave the researchers a new window into how these circuits form in human brains, where alcohol-linked neurons are harder to identify and then injected them with a compound that could were able to inactivate only alcohol-linked neurons.

RatsnETOH“I was surprised to see these rats completely cease their compulsive alcohol drinking,” a change that lasted for as long as the rats were monitored.

“We’ve never seen an effect this strong that has lasted for several weeks,” said George. “I wasn’t sure if I believed it.”

They also appeared to be protected from the negative physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, such as shaking.

The new research also shed light on the differences in the brain between more casual binge drinking and addictive consumption. In the rats that were drinkers but NOT addicted, switching off the alcohol-linked neurons had little effect on future drinking. In the non-addicted users, the brain seemed to switch-on a new group of neurons, as if the brain’s path from alcohol to reward was not established.

Edited for readability 

Source: “Recruitment of a Neuronal Ensemble in the Central Nucleus of the Amygdala is Required for Alcohol Dependence.”

Researchers included Elena Crawford, Sarah Kim, Leandro F. Vendruscolo, Molly Brennan and Maury Cole of TSRI; Bruce T. Hope of the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA); and George F. Koob, currently on leave from TSRI to serve as director of the NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).  This study was supported by the NIH (grants AA006420, AA020608 and AA022977), the NIDA Intramural Research Program and the TSRI Pearson Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research.  Authors of the new paper include The Scripps Research Institute’s Olivier George (left) and Giordano de Guglielmo.  Title: Recruitment of a Neuronal Ensemble in the Central Nucleus of the Amygdala is Required for Alcohol Dependence, Journal of Neuroscience,  published September 7, 2016

What Do All Addictions Have in Common?

Dopamine – the brain’s primary motivation-neurotransmitter

Any form of drug addiction involves the production of dopamine.

“Brain Design By Cogs And Gears” by MR LIGHTMANThe brain’s dopamine pathways serve as a built-in reward system. By creating sensations something akin to desire, yearning or wanting sensations, its primary purpose is to motivate us to pay attention to the activities deemed important to survival. And when we do the thing it wants us to, we feel – well… “Ahhh!” … Rewarded.

Our Survival Instincts have been on board since the beginning. I like to call this part of the brain the Beast-brain, because it acts without conscious thought. It’s the part of the brain that creates discomfort when there is a “need” – food, air, water, sleep, shelter, and sex.

The development of the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for decision-making and critical judgment – tends to confuse us as to just how primal these instincts really are.  After all, we think of these things as a desire for eating, having a nice drink, taking a deep breath, getting a good nights rest, keeping warm, and bonding (sex).

But think about it – why do people sometimes drown? It’s because the need for air is so strong that we take a breath, even when we “know” we cannot. And I would never eat insects, yet if I were starving on a deserted island, my survival instincts would have me eating all kinds of odd things!

And the brain doesn’t just insist on survival. It records and archives how its needs, or “wanting’s,” were satisfied the best, creating very detailed dopamine neuropathways about these events.

Addictions and Cravings

RatsnETOH

What scientists have finally proven is that certain chemicals, once inside the brain, can activate the mind’s dopamine pathway circuitry, virtually hijacking the mind’s perceived priorities for survival. By creating a false instinct, as strong or stronger than the true survival behaviors, experiments with rats have demonstrated that they will choose cocaine over water and food… all the way to their death!

But rats aren’t like people, you say, and of course you are right. But what scientists have found is that addictions have somehow landed in the survival-instinct part of the brain. It is the common thread in all chemical addictions – including cocaine, heroin, meth, nicotine and alcohol.

Remember that this part of the brain is pre-decision making – the Beast Brain. You can only hold your breath for so long before this part of the brain will gasp for a breath. And an addict can only resist the desire for his or her preferred chemical for so long before the beast-brain will override reason and find him or herself searching. Craving.

Drugs of abuse feel good to the user. After taking the drug for a while, the feel-good parts of the brain need to take more of the drug to get the same good feeling. Before long, the brain and body must have the drug to just feel normal. And finally, the user feels sick and awful without the drug. Addiction.

Addiction is “a permanent priorities-disorder and is a disease of the mind.” (John R. Polito,  Freedom from Nicotine – The Journey Home)

 Although this may seem harsh, there is no longer any question to its truth. He goes on to say:

“The good news is that knowledge is power, and we can grow smarter than our addiction. Full recovery is entirely do-able for all. In fact, today there are more ex-users in the U.S. than there are users.

While the first few days may feel like an emotional train wreck, each passing day the challenges grow fewer, generally less intense and shorter in duration. Recovery leads to a calm and quiet mind where addiction chatter and wanting gradually fade into rarity, where the ex-user begins going days, weeks or even months without once wanting their substance.”

If you know someone who is addicted, I hope this article has helped you understand a little better – that it’s not about bad choices, weak character, or that they simply don’t care enough. It’s more about a misunderstanding – the brain believes it needs the substance. And it’s the part of the brain that has no interest it what the person actually wants.

If you are addicted to a substance, get some help. It’s very hard to go at it alone.

Motivation and Addiction – What goes Wrong?

Why do people with addictions seem to “choose” their substances over you? Or family? Or work?
Once addicted, the brain works differently. Watch this short explanation. It’s worth it!

sadness1
https://youtu.be/hg09_-89caY

 

Why Do People Become Addicted?

Worth Reading from off the web! By  ~ 5 minutes read

why do people get addictedWhen discussing an addiction or dependency, most standard beliefs center around the continued repeatability of use of a substance and/or behavior, in which the user loses site of the ramifications of his/her actions. The user can become so attached to substances or an action (pornography, gambling) that the instant gratification of the moment far overrides the consequences.

It is like having a little voice on your shoulder telling you everything will be fine–go ahead–just one more. Someone who is fighting an addiction or dependency is fighting both urges from the outside world and a battle with voices inside of themselves.

Negative Reinforcement: I am Worthless Because You Say I Am

Many of my clients have suggested their addictive behaviors began with the need to escape or numb from the world around them. They understood the consequences of their addictive behaviors, but the pain—through either anxiety or depression—was so intense they could not seek any other alternative.

To someone overwhelmed in the moment, long-term recovery seems as difficult and tedious as climbing a mountain. On the other hand, their addictive behaviors can be instantly satisfying.

All of the judgment and opinions from friends and loved ones in fact become reinforcement to continue. To a certain extent, it is socially acceptable to use alcohol, gamble, or shop when emotionally stressed, as long as you don’t cross certain social norms. When a user does violate those norms, the reaction of others reinforces the feelings of weakness, worthlessness, and being out of control. So, he thinks, I might as well keep using.

As Robin Williams once stated in Weapons of Self-Destruction: “As an alcoholic, you will violate your standards quicker than you can lower them.”

When talking about any kind of addiction, it is important to recognize that its cause is not simply a search for pleasure, and that addiction has nothing to do with one’s morality or strength of character. Experts debate whether addiction is a “disease” or a true mental illness, whether drug dependence and addiction mean the same thing, and many other aspects of addiction.

Pleasure Principle: This is Your Brain on Drugs

 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. Dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens is so consistently tied with pleasure that neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain’s pleasure center.

All drugs of abuse, from nicotine to heroin, cause a particularly powerful surge of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. The likelihood that the use of a drug or participation in a rewarding activity will lead to addiction is directly linked to the speed with which it promotes dopamine release, the intensity of that release, and the reliability of that release.

Even taking the same drug through different methods of administration can influence how likely it is to lead to addiction. Smoking a drug or injecting it intravenously, as opposed to swallowing it as a pill, for example, generally produces a faster, stronger dopamine signal and is more likely to lead to drug misuse.

Is it a wonder that a depressed individual would seek out this pleasure—any form of relief from the darkness that surrounds their soul?

Diagnostic Criteria for Addiction

Based on the criteria by the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) and World Health Organization (ICD-10) an addiction must meet at least three of the following criteria:

  • Do you use more alcohol or drugs over time?
  • Have you experienced physical or emotional withdrawal when you have stopped using? Have you experienced anxiety, irritability, shakes, sweats, nausea, or vomiting? Emotional withdrawal is just as significant as physical withdrawal.
  • Limited control. Do you sometimes drink or use drugs more than you would like? Do you sometimes drink to get drunk? Does one drink lead to more drinks sometimes? Do you ever regret how much you used the day before?
  • Negative consequences. Have you continued to use even though there have been negative consequences to your mood, self-esteem, health, job, or family?
  • Neglected or postponed activities. Have you ever put off or reduced social, recreational, work, or household activities because of your use?
  • Significant time or energy spent. Have you spent a significant amount of time obtaining, using, concealing, planning, or recovering from your use? Have you spent a lot of time thinking about using? Have you ever concealed or minimized your use? Have you ever thought of schemes to avoid getting caught?
  • Desire to cut down. Have you sometimes thought about cutting down or controlling your use? Have you ever made unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control your use?

Many people with addiction issues who I have spoken to shared how they had a high tolerance, and could drink more than peers when in their early stages of drinking. At the time, one who could chug the beer and down the shots and still be able to stand was regarded in high esteem. Many clients have told me, though, as life went on, having a high tolerance for booze became a curse as it became a thirst that could not be quenched.

Relapse and Recovery

Symptoms of addiction include tolerance (development of resistance to the effects of alcohol or other drugs over time) and withdrawal, a painful or unpleasant physical response when the substance is withheld.

Many people who are addicted deny it. They often emphasize that they enjoy drinking or taking other drugs.

People recovering from addiction can experience a lack of control and return to their substance use at some point in their recovery process. This faltering, common among people with most chronic disorders, is called relapse. To ordinary people, relapse is one of the most perplexing aspects of addiction. Millions of Americans who want to stop using addictive substances suffer tremendously, and relapses can be quite discouraging.

To appreciate the grips of addiction, imagine a person that “wants to stop doing something and they cannot, despite catastrophic consequences,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “We’re not speaking of little consequences. These are catastrophic. And yet they cannot control their behavior.”

Many in the addiction recovery field suggest that it takes more than just “not using” to fully recover. Recovery needs to come from the heart and the way one perceives him or herself.

The following are important points your clients in recovery should know:

  • Check into your values; what’s important to you. What are the things that mean more to you than remaining addicted.
  • Develop and practice the skills you need to manage your life without relying on your addiction
  • Learn how to control addictive urges through mind management techniques
  • Find and appreciate the rewards that come from a “sober” (non-addicted) lifestyle
  • Build and appreciate personal relationships and turn to positive communities for support and companionship
  • Find your purpose and plan a future that leads to accomplishing your life goals
  • Mature into a new, non-addicted you — a person who simply and naturally rejects addiction in all forms

“I am spinning the silk threads of my story, weaving the fabric of my world…I spun out of control. Eating was hard. Breathing was hard. Living was hardest. I wanted to swallow the bitter seeds of forgetfulness…Somehow, I dragged myself out of the dark and asked for help. I spin and weave and knit my words and visions until a life starts to take shape. There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore. I am thawing.” Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls 

Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net       Why Do People Become Addicted? | Psych Central Professional.

 

 

 

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