Addictions: The Big Brain Hijacker
Updated: Jan 6
Last week, a 51 year old man was taken to a neighborhood E.R. after a deadly opioid overdose. His relatives, also misusing substances, said they waited 10 minutes before calling 911 because they thought he was “playing dead”. Meanwhile, his brother died of an overdose at another hospital.
This tragic story shows how addictions hijack the ability of the brain to accurately assess situations, often ending in deaths, which could have been avoided.
Our brains have natural capabilities to regulate our experiences of pleasure or pain by producing neurotransmitters such as dopamine and endorphins. These neurotransmitters optimize our functional abilities to feel, think, perceive ourselves and our environment, and respond accordingly. Addictive substances or behaviors deplete the neurotransmitters by tricking the brain into thinking there is no longer the need to produce them. This brain imbalance clouds judgement, causes exaggerated physical and emotional pain, and cravings.
The brain can't differentiate between substances, whether they are alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, gambling or chocolate. So, it stands to reason that any addictive substance used after the person has the illness, will keep tricking the brain. That's why, for best outcomes and before a person’s brain can fully heal, we need to address and manage all addictions, including nicotine.
We were thrilled with the positive feedback we received about our research poster at last weekend's annual NAADAC convention (National Association for Alcohol and Drug Addictions Counselors). There were so many wonderful sessions and we're proud to be a part of this proactive organization.
So, what was our take-away from the conference? To treat addictions effectively, it’s important to combine good behavioral health interventions with the proper medications. This confirms that we are on the right track for moving this illness toward better resolutions. Our tool provides diagnostics for acute illness, chronic risk, and resilience factors, to give the best guidance for addiction prevention and treatment options for long term remission. These include behavioral health and medication selection and minimum duration.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more.
Joyce and Calvin