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Addiction as a ScienceAddiction is far more complex than using a substance once and becoming addicted. There’s a whole science behind addiction. There’s a science behind addiction treatment, too. The more we know about how our brain works in regards to substances, the more we can do to effectively treat those who have addictions. It’s important to stay up to date with new information. Continue reading to learn more about addiction as a science.

The More You Know

The more you know about a subject, the better you are able to react to it. This goes for almost everything, but especially addiction. By using technology such as brain scans, scientists have begun to figure out the brains of those addicted to substances. They know which neurotransmitters are imbalanced and how different regions of the brain are impacted.

“They are developing a more detailed understanding of how deeply and completely addiction can affect the brain, by hijacking memory-making processes and by exploiting emotions,” says Michael D. Lemonick, author of “The Science of Addiction” for TIME.

“Using that knowledge, they’ve begun to design new [medications] that could cut off the craving that drives [a person who is addicted] irresistibly toward relapse — the greatest risk facing even the most dedicated abstainer.” The more we know about this chronic disease, the better we are able to treat those suffering.

Uncontrollable Cravings

“When exposed to drugs, our memory systems, reward circuits, decision-making skills and conditioning kick in — salience in overdrive — to create an all-consuming pattern of uncontrollable craving,” says Lemonick. With new research, scientists have found that some people are more prone to developing an addiction due to a genetic predisposition.

Addictions aren’t limited to substances, however. “Behaviors, from gambling to shopping to sex, may start out as habits but slide into compulsions,” Lemonick says. “Almost anything deeply enjoyable has the potential to become addictive, though.”

Pleasure-Seeking Behaviors

Not everyone becomes addicted, though. Scientists have found through brain imaging how different regions of the brain are impacted, evaluating and overriding pleasure-seeking behaviors. Martin Paulus, a former professor of psychiatry and current president of a brain research institute, as found that among people addicted to methamphetamine, “Those who were more likely to relapse in the first year after completing [a four-week rehabilitation program] were also less able to complete tasks involving cognitive skills and less able to adjust to new rules quickly.”

This showed Paulus that “those patients might also be less adept at using analytical areas of the brain while performing decision-making tasks.” These observations were further proven through brain scans, where they showed that there were “reduced levels of activation in the prefrontal cortex, where rational thought can override impulsive behavior.” Of course, it’s not possible to say whether or not drug use had damaged these abilities, but it does suggest that, because this only existed in some users, it was something that was unique to those specific users.

Reward Systems

Another area that scientists focused on was the brain’s reward system. The brain’s reward system is largely driven by dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain. Lemonick reports that, “Investigators are looking specifically at the family of dopamine receptors that populate nerve cells and bind to the compound. The hope is that if you can dampen the effect of the brain chemical that carries the pleasurable signal, you can loosen the drug’s hold.”

For example, there is one particular group of dopamine receptors that “seems to multiply in the presence of cocaine, methamphetamine, and nicotine.” This makes it possible for so much more of these drugs to enter and activate the nerve cells, says Lemonick. If you can find a way to chemically block this particular group of dopamine receptors, it interrupts much of the drug’s effects, says Frank Vocci, former National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) member.

Unfortunately, the more stress someone is under, the more likely they are to have cravings to use substances. If you can work on lessening your stress, your cravings may begin to subside a bit. Of course, lessening stress isn’t a cure-all, but every little bit you can change to help you stop using is worth trying out.

There are also other areas of the brain and body that are impacted by substance use and could contribute to dependence on these substances, such as sex hormones, biological differences, and learning behaviors. This is why it’s important to treat the whole being — mind, body, and spirit.

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Help

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be used for so many different areas, including trauma and substance use. Many rehabilitation programs employ cognitive therapists to help teach clients new ways to think about substances and their consequences. Recovery is a learning process that lasts a lifetime.

Changing how you think about substances at first can impact how you behave around substances later. It’s important to attack an addiction at all angles, treating the whole being.

The Guest House is here to help you learn more about what you are dealing with, including addiction and trauma, as well as the treatment methods we offer. Call our trained staff today at (855) 372-1079. We can’t wait to speak with you and help get you started on your individualized track to recovery today! We want to help you become the best person you can be. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Call now, you won’t be disappointed in what we have to offer.