The Anatomy of Addiction · Addiction and Dopamine. Science has come a long way to help us understand the way the brain changes in addiction. In this section, we will provide updates on current research on addiction, recovery, and the brain. Alcohol and drugs affect neurotransmitters and neural pathways in the brain.
At the same time, the brain struggles to maintain balance. As a result, when drugs and alcohol change brain chemistry, the brain adapts. Once adaptation becomes the norm, the brain will want to “correct an imbalance” when the drug is no longer present by taking the drug again. Over time, substance use disorder changes both the structure of the brain and its functioning.
For example, the brain will reduce dopamine production if a drug artificially recreates the effects of dopamine. Over time, substance use disorder (SUD) changes both the structure of the brain and how it works. On dopamine transporter knockouts, Haney observes: “I don't think Caron's study alone denies the theory of dopamine addiction; there's too much data to back it up. Encourages drug addiction, keeping the individual in a cycle of ups and downs; the user may feel that they are on an emotional roller coaster, feeling desperation and depression without their substance of abuse.
Each substance has slightly different effects on the brain, but all addictive drugs, including alcohol, opioids, and cocaine, produce a pleasant surge of the neurotransmitter dopamine in a region of the brain called the basal ganglia; neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit messages between nerve cells. Conditioned learning helps explain why people who develop an addiction are at risk of relapse even after years of abstinence. Addictions focus on alterations in the brain's mesolimbic dopamine pathway, also known as the reward circuit, which begins in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) above the brainstem. This is consistent with the stories of drug addicts who claim that once they start taking the drug they cannot stop taking it, even when the drug is no longer pleasant.
Addictive drugs provide a shortcut to the brain's reward system by flooding the nucleus accumbens with dopamine. Self and colleagues have recently discovered that addicted rats that no longer receive drugs and eventually give up their search for them, a phenomenon known as extinction, show changes in glutamate receptors in the nucleus accumbens. Currently, the cost of illicit drug addiction in the united states is more than $600 billion a year (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 201, with profound social and economic impacts. This is relevant because the involvement of the dorsal striatum, which is a region associated with habit learning, indicates that in drug addiction the routine associated with drug use can be automatically triggered by exposure to the drug or drug-related signals (4.Wolf thinks that the introduction of glutamate as an actor in addiction is logical, not only because glutamate is the basis of learning, but also because the dopamine system is regulated by neurons containing glutamate.
Over time, drug use can lead to addiction, a devastating brain disease, when people cannot stop using drugs even when they really want to, and even after this causes terrible consequences for their health and other parts of their lives. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition, or DSM-IV) describes multiple addictions, each linked to a specific substance or activity, and a consensus is emerging that these may represent multiple expressions of a common underlying brain process. All information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional. .