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Understanding the Brain of an Addict

My family used to be the most important thing in the world to me. I miss those days.

Today, I can’t think of anything but my next high. I’m out of money, but I can’t let that stop me.

I need this like I need air to breathe.

I know they don’t trust me, so this is going to be hard. I need three seconds alone with dad’s wallet. Just ten bucks will do it for now… or more if it’s there.

I wrote this today, but it easily could have been something I said ten years ago when I was using. It’s easy to look at these words and judge, but I wasn’t the one in control. The disease of addiction had taken over my Brain.

How Does Someone Get Addicted?

For me, addiction came from a desperate need for relief. I was in a car accident about 15 years ago, and it left me with a herniated disc and severe chronic back pain. Steroid shots would help, but the pain would quickly return with a vengeance.

That is how I ended up on OxyContin.

My original doctor refused to prescribe anything stronger than a prescription NSAID because he knew the pain was chronic and I could become addicted. I knew he was right, but I was desperate. So I found a doctor to prescribe OxyContin. It was much easier than I expected.

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I lost control. Once I was addicted, doctor shopping became a common practice.

When I finally ran out of doctors who would prescribe OxyContin, I turned to heroin. It works in the same way, and it’s relatively easy to get on the street.

Why Drugs Feel Good

The PET images show that repeated exposure to drugs depletes the brain's dopamine receptors, which are critical for one's ability to experience pleasure and reward.Painkillers work by accessing the brain’s communication system. The drug’s structure mimics that of a neurotransmitter, so the Drugs can attach to neurons and activate them.

Other drugs, like cocaine or amphetamines, change the amount of natural recycling of brain chemicals. This is a disruption that amplifies the original message and disrupts the brain’s communication channels.

Most drugs flood the brain with Dopamine. Dopamine is involved in movement, emotion, motivation, and pleasure. Typically, our bodies respond with dopamine to reward our natural behaviors.

Two examples of natural behaviors that stimulate a dopamine release are food and sex. Addictive drugs release anywhere between two and ten times the amount of dopamine as these things.

Drugs overstimulate the brain with dopamine and provide a euphoric effect. This feels good in the moment, and that’s how we become addicted. Our brains are hardwired to keep us wanting things that feel good.

How Drugs Cause Addiction

When the brain relies on a drug to stimulate dopamine, it naturally produces less on its own. The longer you take drugs to get that euphoric feeling, the more reliant your brain becomes on the drug. Over time, the drug becomes the only substantial dopamine supplier you have. In short, you become reliant on the drug to feel any emotion. This is why depression and listlessness are so common among people who suffer from addiction.

When I look back at my life, I see my decision to get help as a pivotal moment. This is what saved me, and it was as simple as saying, “I’m going to do this. I’m getting help today.” It was a bumpy road from there, and there where many times I thought about giving up, but I pushed forward. I honestly believe that this simple decision in an otherwise ordinary moment is the reason I’m alive today.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, it’s time to get help. Time is truly of the essence. Reach out to a counselor or addiction specialist to help you find your way back to a life without drugs.

Photo Credits

Heroin – Wikimedia Creative Commons

Dopamine – Wikimedia public domain

Drugs feature image pixabay creative commons


Guest Author Bio
Trevor McDonald

Trevor is a freelance writer and recovering addict & alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources and addiction awareness. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.



This post first appeared on LIFE AS A HUMAN – The Online Magazine For Evolvi, please read the originial post: here

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Understanding the Brain of an Addict

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