Why do Individuals who are addicted continue to do something that is detrimental for them?
Why are Individuals who are addicted unable to stop?
How important is Cognitive Remediation in treating individuals who are addicted?
Addiction has been referred to as a Brain Disease.
Repeated use of drugs and alcohol alters the brain, causing cravings and compulsion to use the drugs or alcohol. This happens because of two reasons. Our brain produces a natural chemical that is similar to morphine and is responsible for controlling pain and experiencing pleasure.
With repeated use of the drug, the brain stops producing this natural chemical, called endorphins (meaning morphine within), as it is getting this chemical from the drugs. Slowly the drug replaces the natural chemical in the brain. This causes the body to become dependent on the drug.
When the drug is not consumed, the body feels depleted of its natural resources. Since the body has stopped producing the chemical naturally, it demands the drug by producing a craving for the drug. This is similar to experiencing hunger pangs when our body needs food to refuel itself.
Secondly, since this chemical is responsible for the natural control of pain and the experience of pleasure, the body becomes completely dependent on the drug to reduce pain and experience pleasure. Withdrawal symptoms (physical discomfort equivalent to pain) are experienced between depletion and resumption of this chemical causing the body to consume the drug to alleviate the pain and experience pleasure.
The second reason why addiction develops is because of the increases production of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Most of the drugs of abuse including alcohol have been shown to stimulate the dopamine producing neurons in the brain resulting in increased production of dopamine. This is what is responsible for the drugs positive effects like euphoria which in turn could lead to addiction. The rewarding effects of the drug could cause the user to use the drug more and more.
Apart from causing cravings prolonged use of drugs alters areas of the brain responsible for self-control, judgment, emotional regulation, motivation, memory, and learning compromising ones ability to think clearly, exercise good judgment, control behavior, and feel normal without drugs or alcohol.
Brain changes associated with drug use can be reversed with therapy, exercise, meditation and other treatments. However few Addiction Treatment Programs address the affects of the drugs or alcohol on the brain and incorporate treatment therapies for it.