Desire initiates the Process, but Learning sustains the Addiction that Hijacks the Brain

Addiction is derived from the Latin word Addictus meaning “sacrifice”…..  Anyone who has struggled to overcome an addiction or has attempted to help someone else to do so understands why.

Addiction is a chronic disease that changes both the structure and function of the brain. The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, as it releases the neurotransmitter Dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of nerve cells lying underneath the cerebral cortex. Addictive drugs provide a shortcut to the brain’s reward system by flooding the nucleus accumbens with Dopamine. Addictive substances and behaviors stimulate the same circuit, hijack the brain and then overload it. Thus creating the vicious desirous cycle of liking something with wanting it, which motivaties an addict to go after their source of pleasure at any cost, known as learning.

Overtime, Dopamine has less impact on the brain’s reward center and the desired substance no longer gives an addict as much pleasure. An addict ingests more of it to obtain the same initial Dopamine “high” because their brains have become hijacked and adapted, also known as tolerance. At this point, compulsion takes over. The pleasure associated with an addictive drug or behavior subsides, yet the memory of the pleasure associated with the Dopamine, the desired effect and the need to recreate it (the wanting) persists.

The first step to recovery begins with receiving high quality care during one’s medical detoxification for substance abuse at NOVO Detox and the acknowledgement of one’s addiction.

Veronika Voss Ph.D.,LA.c