You are on page 1of 13

Addiction and the Brain

An in depth look at how brain activity is directly
connected with addictions
What is Addiction?
“The state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that
is psychologically or physically habit-forming, to such an extent that
its cessation causes severe trauma.” –(Webster 2004. Pg 16)
When we hear the word addiction, we often think of drugs and alcohol
but addiction is displayed in many other forms
Video Games…
What causes addiction?
Genetics represent 40-60% if the risk of
developing addiction People with low levels of the
neuron, Dopamine are more likely to become
addicts, because they lack extreme natural
DNA methylation is a biochemcial process that is
crucial for normal organ development, it is found
that many addicts have an increase of this
process, which can be inherited and can lead to
Adrenocorticotropic hormone receptors regulate
responses to physiological stressors. Dysregulation
of these receptors are found in addicts.
(Yuferov p1-24)
A Neurotransmitter
Controls the brain’s reward and pleasure
Regulates movement and emotional
Addictive drugs increase dopamine levels,
creating extreme pleasure that the brain is
not familiar with

Reduces the pace of brain activity by
decreasing the excitatory actions of the
neurotransmitter glutamate
Glutamate affects cognition, memory and
Boosts the inhibitory actions of the
neurotransmitter gamma-amino butyric
acid, (GABA.)
GABA calms nervous activity

(Heroin, Codeine and Morphine)
Works on the brain’s ventral tegmental area and cerebral
The human brain has specific receptor sites for opiates,
endorphin receptor sites
All opiates contain morphine, a synthetic form of
Endorphins make one feel high, euphoric and relief from
Once one is addicted to an opiate and go without the
drug for a short period of time, their neurons start
pumping out neurotransmitters.
The brain’s unfamiliarity of neurotransmitters causes the
body to shut down and begin withdrawal, (nausea,
spasms, cramps…)
Effects the centers of the brain that
controls judgment, control reward and
control memory.
Release 1250 units of Dopamine, while
Alcohol releases 100-200
Dopamine is pulled out of the synapse and
is reused in a matter of minutes for the
non-addict. Cocaine takes one-two hours,
while Methamphetamines take eight to
twelve hours to be recycled, creating an
extended euphoric feeling with the
Dopamine build up (Rawson)

Non-Substance Addictions
Caffeine increases the likelihood that neurons
will release GABA and glutamate (Sweeny. Brain
The Complete Mind pg 200)
Gambling, Sex, Eating and many other actions
are considered non-substance addictions because
they still produce a high level of Dopamine.
As we have previously learned, high levels of
Dopamine trick the brain into believing this is the
“best feeling I’ve ever felt,” leading people for more
and more of what made the person so joyful
These addictions are a repetitive impulse to
engage in a behavior with the goal of obtaining
pleasure despite possible harmful influences
(Henderson Pg 154)
How addictions impact the brain
All addictions effect
the lower, central
portion of the brain that
regulate automatic
functions, the cortex,
which is connected with
learning and reasoning.
(Henderson pg, 33)
The structure of
Neurons can be changed
Dopamine receptor
sites change
One will never feel the
surge of Dopamine that
drugs provided
Post acute withdrawal syndrome
A sign that the brain is beginning to recover
Chemicals fluctuate as they learn to find a new
Symptoms include, inability to think clearly,
memory problems, emotions are out of
proportion, sleep problems, coordination
These symptoms can last up to ten years into
sobriety, which shows how damaged the
addicts brain can become

(Ohio State University)
The brain in recovery
The brain will begin to heal the receptor
sites that have been damaged
Slowly, the addict in recovery begins to
have the Dopamine level they had before
Because this level is still low compared to
the average person and an addict is used
to such strong surges, this creates
Exercise therapy is often used, to produce
natural dopamine and endorphins
Edythe, London D. "Heroin In The Brain | The Opium Kings | FRONTLINE | PBS." PBS: Public
Broadcasting Service. 09 May 2002. Web. 2011.
I was able to get pertinent, specific information from this site about Opiates. Different receptor
sites are affected by heroin and morphine, I was unable to find this information in the books and
other articles I have read, so I found this site to be very helpful, though there was minimal
information, it was helpful.

Frascella, J., Potenza, M. N., Brown, L. L., & Childress, A. (2010). Shared brain vulnerabilities open
the way for nonsubstance addictions: Carving addiction at a new joint?. Annals of the New York
Academy of Sciences, 1187(1), 294-315. This article was a step in the direction I was wanting
to take my report. I could not find near enough information about nonsubstance addictions that
were directly related to the brain, but this article helped me to incorporate that specific
information into my thoughts. The brain is changed by activity and I learned that here.

Henderson, Elizabeth Connell. Understanding Addiction. Jackson, MS. University Press of
Mississippi. (2001) Print.
The book, Understanding addiction, gave me an overview of the psychological and physical
effects of addiction. The book took us from the beginning of addiction all the way to where the
brain recovers. I found this helpful for my entire thought process and understanding, though I
did not use many quotes from the book because they were not detailed enough toward the

Koob, G. F. "Mechanisms of Addiction." Alcohol.(2000) The Brain and Behavior. Niaaa. Web. Vol
24(1) <>.
This gave me very specific information about alcohol addiction. There are parts of the brain that
are greater affected by alcohol than other addictions and this site gave me the information
directly about the brain

Bibliography Ctd.
Ohio State University"Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrom." Web. June 2006.

This is a specific site that helped me to understand Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. This site
really shocked me. The brain takes such a long time to recover and I really wanted to
incorporate that into my overall view.

Rawson, Richard A. "Meth In The Body - Meth And The Brain | The Meth Epidemic | FRONTLINE |
PBS." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. 16 Feb. 2006. Web.

This site provided me not only with information about methamphetamines, but especially
interested me because I was able to physically see and compare the difference of meth in the
brain versus heroin in the brain. The extreme difference affected my thought process, and
where I went with my research.

Wanat, M. J., Willuhn, I., Clark, J. J., & Phillips, P. M. (2009). Phasic Dopamine Release in
Appetitive Behaviors and Drug Addiction. Current Drug Abuse Reviews,Vol 2(2), 195-213.
Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Phasic Dopamine Release was the most controversial of the articles. This provided me a
better perspective of how Dopamine really affects drug addiction and vice versa. I was able to
learn that there are different types of Dopamine as well, which most sites would not provide.

Yuferov, V., Levran, O., Proudnikov, D., Nielsen, D. A., & Kreek, M. (2010). Search for genetic
markers and functional variants involved in the development of opiate and cocaine addiction
and treatment. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1187(1), 184-207

Genetic Markers was one of the greatest articles I came across; I was able to fully delve in and
understand how people become addicts and how many people are born with addiction. This
article was full of information specifically related to alcohol and the brain.