Addiction and the Brain An in depth look at how brain activity is directly connected with addictions
What is Addiction?
“ The state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.” –(Webster 2004. Pg 16)
When we hear the word addiction, we often think of drugs and alcohol but addiction is displayed in many other forms
What causes addiction?
Genetics represent 40-60% if the risk of developing addiction People with low levels of the neuron, Dopamine are more likely to become addicts, because they lack extreme natural pleasure.
DNA methylation is a biochemcial process that is crucial for normal organ development, it is found that many addicts have an increase of this process, which can be inherited and can lead to addiction.
Adrenocorticotropic hormone receptors regulate responses to physiological stressors. Dysregulation of these receptors are found in addicts. (Yuferov p1-24)
Controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers
Regulates movement and emotional responses
Addictive drugs increase dopamine levels, creating extreme pleasure that the brain is not familiar with
Reduces the pace of brain activity by decreasing the excitatory actions of the neurotransmitter glutamate
Glutamate affects cognition, memory and learning
Boosts the inhibitory actions of the neurotransmitter gamma-amino butyric acid, (GABA.)
GABA calms nervous activity
Opiates (Heroin, Codeine and Morphine)
Works on the brain’s ventral tegmental area and cerebral cortex
The human brain has specific receptor sites for opiates, endorphin receptor sites
All opiates contain morphine, a synthetic form of endorphins.
Endorphins make one feel high, euphoric and relief from pain
Once one is addicted to an opiate and go without the drug for a short period of time, their neurons start pumping out neurotransmitters.
The brain’s unfamiliarity of neurotransmitters causes the body to shut down and begin withdrawal, (nausea, spasms, cramps…) (Edythe)
Effects the centers of the brain that controls judgment, control reward and control memory.
Release 1250 units of Dopamine, while Alcohol releases 100-200
Dopamine is pulled out of the synapse and is reused in a matter of minutes for the non-addict. Cocaine takes one-two hours, while Methamphetamines take eight to twelve hours to be recycled, creating an extended euphoric feeling with the Dopamine build up
Caffeine increases the likelihood that neurons will release GABA and glutamate (Sweeny. Brain The Complete Mind pg 200)
Gambling, Sex, Eating and many other actions are considered non-substance addictions because they still produce a high level of Dopamine.
As we have previously learned, high levels of Dopamine trick the brain into believing this is the “best feeling I’ve ever felt,” leading people for more and more of what made the person so joyful
These addictions are a repetitive impulse to engage in a behavior with the goal of obtaining pleasure despite possible harmful influences (Henderson Pg 154)
How addictions impact the brain
All addictions effect the lower, central portion of the brain that regulate automatic functions, the cortex, which is connected with learning and reasoning. (Henderson pg, 33)
The structure of Neurons can be changed forever
Dopamine receptor sites change significantly
One will never feel the surge of Dopamine that drugs provided
Post acute withdrawal syndrome
A sign that the brain is beginning to recover
Chemicals fluctuate as they learn to find a new equilibrium
Symptoms include, inability to think clearly, memory problems, emotions are out of proportion, sleep problems, coordination problems
These symptoms can last up to ten years into sobriety, which shows how damaged the addicts brain can become
(Ohio State University)
The brain in recovery
The brain will begin to heal the receptor sites that have been damaged
Slowly, the addict in recovery begins to have the Dopamine level they had before addiction
Because this level is still low compared to the average person and an addict is used to such strong surges, this creates depression
Exercise therapy is often used, to produce natural dopamine and endorphins
Edythe, London D. "Heroin In The Brain | The Opium Kings | FRONTLINE | PBS." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service . 09 May 2002. Web. 2011. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/heroin/brain/>. I was able to get pertinent, specific information from this site about Opiates. Different receptor sites are affected by heroin and morphine, I was unable to find this information in the books and other articles I have read, so I found this site to be very helpful, though there was minimal information, it was helpful.
Frascella, J., Potenza, M. N., Brown, L. L., & Childress, A. (2010). Shared brain vulnerabilities open the way for nonsubstance addictions: Carving addiction at a new joint?. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences , 1187(1), 294-315. This article was a step in the direction I was wanting to take my report. I could not find near enough information about nonsubstance addictions that were directly related to the brain, but this article helped me to incorporate that specific information into my thoughts. The brain is changed by activity and I learned that here.
Henderson, Elizabeth Connell. Understanding Addiction. Jackson, MS. University Press of Mississippi. (2001) Print. The book, Understanding addiction, gave me an overview of the psychological and physical effects of addiction. The book took us from the beginning of addiction all the way to where the brain recovers. I found this helpful for my entire thought process and understanding, though I did not use many quotes from the book because they were not detailed enough toward the brain.
Koob, G. F. "Mechanisms of Addiction." Alcohol.(2000) The Brain and Behavior . Niaaa. Web. Vol 24(1) <http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh24-1/12-16.pdf>. This gave me very specific information about alcohol addiction. There are parts of the brain that are greater affected by alcohol than other addictions and this site gave me the information directly about the brain
Ohio State University"Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrom." Web. June 2006. <http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/patiented/materials/pdfdocs/dis-cond/general/paws.pdf>. This is a specific site that helped me to understand Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. This site really shocked me. The brain takes such a long time to recover and I really wanted to incorporate that into my overall view.
Rawson, Richard A. "Meth In The Body - Meth And The Brain | The Meth Epidemic | FRONTLINE | PBS." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service . 16 Feb. 2006. Web. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/meth/body/methbrainnoflash.html>. This site provided me not only with information about methamphetamines, but especially interested me because I was able to physically see and compare the difference of meth in the brain versus heroin in the brain. The extreme difference affected my thought process, and where I went with my research.
Wanat, M. J., Willuhn, I., Clark, J. J., & Phillips, P. M. (2009). Phasic Dopamine Release in Appetitive Behaviors and Drug Addiction. Current Drug Abuse Reviews ,Vol 2(2), 195-213. Retrieved from EBSCO host .
Phasic Dopamine Release was the most controversial of the articles. This provided me a better perspective of how Dopamine really affects drug addiction and vice versa. I was able to learn that there are different types of Dopamine as well, which most sites would not provide.
Yuferov, V., Levran, O., Proudnikov, D., Nielsen, D. A., & Kreek, M. (2010). Search for genetic markers and functional variants involved in the development of opiate and cocaine addiction and treatment. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences , 1187(1), 184-207 Genetic Markers was one of the greatest articles I came across; I was able to fully delve in and understand how people become addicts and how many people are born with addiction. This article was full of information specifically related to alcohol and the brain.