The ADDICTED Brain

The ADDICTED BrainDrugs create adverse effects on the brain and can be severely dangerous and life threatening. Although drug prevention seems to be a rather expensive treatment, it is a considerably cheaper and more efficient alternative to keeping the addict in jail. As for other solutions to strengthen the war against drugs, many scientists have created several medications, and some states have provided an alternate judicial system for drug related cases.

Certain treatment medications may have distinct risks of their own, but when carefully used to stabilize those in early recovery and helping them to manage the pain of withdrawal during detox. Even if the battle against drugs may be long and painful, America has the knowledge, statistics, and the resources to help those in need if it chooses to.

The brain is a very complex system, which produces various chemicals that can stimulate pain, pleasure, tension, etc. These chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, are responsible for transmitting information between neurons. Neurons are individual cells that distribute the information to receptor-cites, which stimulate a feeling or emotion (Weiten). Commonly known neurotransmitters are dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and GABA. The brain produces different amounts of each neurotransmitter.

What about Neurotransmitters?
If the brain does not produce enough of a certain neurotransmitter the effects could lead to depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, (ADD) and other serious complications. When a person uses drugs however, the neurotransmitters become unbalanced. Drugs alter the amount of neurotransmitters released and determine whether the receptor-cites block or accept them. For example, cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, and nicotine block the molecule that helps store dopamine in the brain. Alcohol on the other hand, releases dopamine (also known as the “pleasure circuit”) serotonin, and GABA. Once a neurotransmitter is released it cannot be reused -therefore it is wasted. “Experiences that used to bring pleasure become impotent” so the addict continues to use the drug without regard for the consequences to avoid an overwhelming depression and/or irritability (Begley).

Solutions and Medications
Some of these solutions include medications, drug courts, and long term treatment centers. Get well jobs are important in early recovery.  In many cases of drug addiction the addict uses because of a chemical imbalance of the brain; therefore, they “self-medicate” themselves with illegal drugs. Consequently, the person becomes dependent upon the drug and in some cases, actually has to be prescribed medication to help them through withdrawal and relapse. Currently there are three common medications prescribed for people who have either a heroin habit or an addiction to other opiates. The first, known as methadone, is the most commonly used and taken orally and helps fight the side effects of withdrawal.

However, the medication itself can be highly addictive and can be dangerous in high doses. Therefore, the government restricts and limits the drug to specific clinics. A second medication named naltrexone helps addicts who wish to continue to remain clean and helps to fight cravings. Lastly, buprenorphine, which is less addictive but just as effective, helps the addict through withdrawal. As for alcoholism, several drugs have been tested or undergoing trial, but there is no proven-effective medication available. Although medications have proven effective in treating some substance use disorders, there are currently no medications that counteract the specific effects of methamphetamine and cocaine or that prolong abstinence from and reduce the misuse of either by an individual addicted to these drugs.

Drug Addiction is a Disease
What many people do not realize is that drug addiction is a disease and if not treated properly this disease will continue to spread. When a person is arrested for drug addiction he or she should be treated or seek treatment for their disease rather than put in prison for it. In order arrest the disease of addiction or alcoholism, one must first understand the effects substances have on the brain and 12-step programs prescribe abstinence while addressing internal/external forces led to starting, and unrelenting continued use by the affected person.

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