How Does Addiction Work in the Brain?
Drugs and alcohol cause dopamine to surge in the brain’s reward and prefontal regions. These areas control pleasure, decision making, judgment, and self-control. That is why we feel pleasure and lose a bit of our self control when we drink or use drugs.
When drugs or alcohol are used repeatedly over time, the brain adapts and becomes less sensitive to the effects of dopamine. We build up a tolerance and need to increase the amount of drugs or alcohol to feel the same amount of pleasure.
Eventually, repeated use causes the brain to stop functioning normally and the effect of dopamine becomes almost nonexistent. The only way to feel pleasure is by taking more drugs or alcohol. When we reach this stage of use, we become addicted.
So why can’t we just decide to stop using drugs and alcohol? Is it because we don’t want to stop? Most people think we chose to start so we can choose to stop and everything will just return to normal. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
Once we become addicted to drugs or alcohol, we lose self-control, judgment, decision making, and no longer feel pleasure. Using drugs or alcohol is the only way we can feel normal.
What began as a harmless way to feel good, becomes something that we can’t control because we have altered the way our brain functions. This is called addiction and it’s a disease of the brain that must be treated like other diseases. We can’t fix addiction by wishing it to go away any more than we can fix cancer or diabetes. They all must be treated medically.
Like other chronic diseases, addiction can’t be cured, but with proper treatment it can be successfully managed so people can have a healthy quality of life.
Drug Addiction Treatment
More information about why people get addicted to drugs and alcohol can be found here:
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