Addiction has many factors–habits, friends, family, stress–but your brain is at the center of it all.
Your brain interprets your circumstances and more importantly for addiction, your brain interacts directly with addictive substances.
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter most closely associated with addiction. It’s considered the reward neurotransmitter. Dopamine is the chemical your brain releases to say, “Good job; keep it up!” It encourages you to do things that are good for you or the species–eat, mate, socialize, overcome challenges, etc.–but the dopamine system can also be hijacked by certain substances to make you think you’re doing something good for you when the opposite may be true.
Cocaine is the best known example because of the numerous studies conducted using cocaine as a model for addiction. Cocaine binds to dopamine receptors, which prevents it from being absorbed by the neuron. This causes your brain to flood with free dopamine, which feels good.
What is most insidious about dopamine’s role in addiction is that for many kinds of addiction it’s not so much a reward after the fact, but a temptation to do whatever gives you a boost. Dopamine actually spikes in anticipation of the action and completely obscures the likelihood that afterward you may feel worse, much worse.
The addictive substance acquires an aura. It makes a promise that is never quite fulfilled. The dopamine surge is so strong that it overcomes your better judgment.
The brain mechanism that makes us seek food or sex is essentially the same mechanism that drives addiction. We make these substances that sneak into the brain and push the same primitive buttons.
This is why freedom from addiction is more than a matter of willpower. It becomes a contest between your better judgement and three billion years of evolution. That’s why it’s important to have strategies, social support, and, often, professional help.
New Vista Behavioral Health is providing a family of nationwide treatment centers offering distinctive care for mental health and substance use disorders. Pursue your New Vistas in life by attending one of our treatment centers. Call us today to get started: 855-534-1760