- Why can't we ever get enough?
- Understanding addiction, or how alcohol affects the brain?
- "Why me?"
- What can stop the addiction epidemic?
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In Poland, about 2 million people abuse alcohol, and its total consumption is one of the highest in Europe. In contrast, among drug-related addictions, the highest number of people report problems with marijuana. The reason for treating addictions are also stimulants, including the most commonly used amphetamine, as well as sedatives.
Why can't we ever get enough?
The neurobiology of addiction is a complicated puzzle that scientists have been trying to decode for years. Although researchers in 2000 reported that they had already learned the sequence of the genes that make up the human genome, very few of them have still been linked to vulnerability to addiction. And althoughinherited genetic predisposition is one of the reasons why some people are at greater risk of becoming addicted than others, there are still no DNA fragments found that would be critical to addiction .
As the researcher Judith Grisel, author of the book "Never enough. The brain and addiction ”, exposure to addictive substances in our parents and grandparents predisposes us to use them. The researcher points out, however, that although risk factors can be transmitted epigenetically, after so many years of studying this field, she does not think that the "gene" puzzle of addiction will be solved any time soon and we will find out what exactly the DNA of addicts looks like.
In addition, she highlights the importance of another reason that increases the risk of addiction and describes the latest research proving that the long-term consequences of psychoactive substance use in adolescence, when the brain is still very plastic and highly tuned for news and pleasure, while somewhat delayed in development in terms of self-control, as a result, the user of psychoactive substances will meet the criteria for addiction by the age of 25. In his book, Grisel emphasizes thataddiction to psychoactive substances also results from massive and frequent exposure, and that the environment may also be a factor in accelerating or inducing addiction.
Understanding addiction, or how alcohol affects the brain?
Given the nature of addiction, you might think that psychoactive substances are mainly used because they have pleasant effects. Their abuse, however, cannot always be explained in thisway. Grisel in his book Never Enough. The brain and addiction ”emphasizes that, for example,excessive alcohol consumption may result from the need to reduce unpleasant feelings . Scientists call it negative reinforcement, and they argue that, due to the reduction of anxiety, the risk of addiction will be higher in people who are naturally prone to anxiety.
The researcher points out that if people with an inherited tendency to anxiety believe that alcohol helps them in such situations, they will experience more and more anxiety, which will also cause them to consume more and more frequently. This is because the brain adapts to the neuronal changes caused by any psychoactive substance, including alcohol, so regular consumption undermines all attempts at self-healing.
Scientists note, in addition to positive reinforcements, also negative reinforcements of alcohol abuse. We are talking here about, for example, vomiting, a hangover, financial pen alties, loss of job or self-respect, etc. Grisel in the book "Never enough. The brain and addiction, ”emphasizes, however, that although they may play a role in addiction and reduce the tendency to heavy drinking, they are usually insufficient for people already addicted to alcohol. And although ethanol molecules are simpler to build than cocaine, THC, heroin and ecstasy, for example, they are smaller, making them difficult to locate in specific places in the brain and in the body in general, making them more difficult to understand.
We already know thatalcohol slows down neuronal activity throughout the brain , and not just in several pathways, which explains its high impact on cognition, emotions, memory, and movement. By inhibiting the "fight or flight" response, it is believed to elicit euphoria, relaxation, a feeling of contentment and the belief that anything is possible. It is for these reasons that some people may perceive alcohol as a cooling agent. Also the author of the book "Never enough. The Brain and Addiction, ”believes her alcohol addiction may have been the result of helping her relieve stress and improving her well-being, so as it was delivered to her body, there was a flood of endorphins that rehydrated her thirsty receptors.
The researcher shows that compared to virtually all other addictive substances that interact in a very specific way with a single neuronal substrate, alcohol is so messy that it is difficult to determine how each of his chemical kisses contributes to the intoxicating effects experienced.
Judith Grisel states with absolute certainty that there is no such thing as a "gene" responsible foraddiction; that addiction is not caused by "moral weakness"; that addictions do not pass any generation; that people are not equally prone to addiction and that the individual is not at the same risk throughout his life. As a result, it recognizes that there are as many ways to become an addict as there are addicts. Therefore, although we know a lot about the causes of addiction, we also know that they are complicated and for many years researchers will probably not know the answer to the question asked by the author of the book: "Why me?".
What can stop the addiction epidemic?
Grisel mentions in her book that she is often asked if she feels sorry for not being able to drink a glass of wine or smoke a joint. She emphasizes that it is not that she would like to have just one glass or a light departure; she would like to drink the whole bottle and smoke the whole bag, and then she would like to drink and smoke more of both. He says that as it turns out for many people, too much is still not enough. In other words, she believes that if someone had accidentally invented a pill that would cure her addictive nature, she would have taken two a day. It is also important that her book discusses changes in the brain and behavior of substance abusers not only from the perspective of a neuroscience researcher, but also an addict who first got drunk at the age of thirteen and used drugs for the next 10 years.
The researcher emphasizes that the stressors experienced by her ancestors played a significant role in her addiction to psychoactive substances. All difficult situations combined, according to her, could make her feel lonely, which predisposed her to seek an escape route.
In the book "Never enough. The Brain and Addiction. Grisel finds many ways to fight the addiction epidemic, which is becoming one of the world's most serious medical problems. What is most striking, however, is the emphasis on how loneliness, lack of support, alienation and being left alone with the problem have a negative impact on the spread of the epidemic, and how important relationships, and more specifically the lack of them, with other people play in addiction. The researcher emphasizes that we all have our share in the unmanageable epidemic of alcoholism. According to her, we walk on a thin line, as if trying to look at the battlefield, to see the ways, we usually strongly contribute to this epidemic, because we usually walk with downcast eyes.