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Damage To The Brain From Drug Use, Not Weakness Leads To Addiction

Addiction has been plaguing humans since the beginning of time. The things that humans become addicted to have changed over the years, but addiction to drugs has been a pretty common. Going back to ancient times when people became addicted to opium. Opiates today are continuing to cause havoc in people's lives. Addiction has long been viewed as a behavioral problem. Many people look at people with addictions as being mentally weak. They do not understand why the person can not just stop what they are doing. They lose respect for these people and look down upon them. Society has had this view for a very long time. Until recently the word addiction was synonymous with weak. Now the term addiction is classified as a disease.

Opiate addicts crave their drugs the same way most people crave, food, water and sex. This is because the parts of the brain that drive you to drink, eat and have sex are the same areas that these drugs affect. The reward system in the brain is simple: “If it feels good, it must be good for me and it must be repeated,” Brad Lander told a packed room of judges, social workers and police officers at the Ohio Judicial Symposium on Opiate Addiction.

The reward system is an amazing part of the brain and when it is stimulated repeatedly can cause addiction to the thing that is causing the stimulation. Just over fifty years ago, psychologists James Olds and Peter Milner, working at McGill University in Canada, carried out their pioneering experiments which discovered that rats would repeatedly press levers to receive tiny jolts of current injected through electrodes implanted deep within their brains. Especially when this brain stimulation was targeted at certain reward and "feel good" areas of the brain, the rats would repeatedly press the lever, even up to 2000 times per hour, forgetting to eat and willingly crossing over painful, electric-charged grids to receive the stimulation of the pleasure zones in the brain.

Opiates cause an imbalance in neurotransmitters which are chemicals that transmit signals to the brain and body such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrin. Those imbalances also are seen in individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia and anxiety, said Lander, who holds a doctorate in psychology and is the clinical director of Addiction Psychiatry at the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University. “We would not go up to a schizophrenic and tell them to just stop doing that,” “Scans show addicts brains look different than healthy brains in areas that control judgment, decision making, learning, memory and behavior control. It frequently takes months or even years for brain function to recover, Lander said.

The idea that only weak-minded people get addicted to things is becoming a way of thinking in the past. More and more information is coming out and people are becoming educated on the issues of addiction. The more we teach people about addiction the better the treatment will become. It will also drive more funds from taxpayers for help for those in need.


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