A Better Today

The Science
of Addiction

Molecular Science Behind Substance Abuse Addiction

Answers to addiction can be found on a molecular level. Chronic use of substances leads to changes in the brain and neural pathways. In many situations, experimenting with drugs and alcohol begins on a social level.

Trying something new, peer pressure, enhancing a good time to a great time when out with friends; this level of experimentation does not instantly develop an addiction in the brain. When experimenting on a social level changes into coping with daily stressors or the only way to relax is when an addiction starts to develop.

This behavior of using alcohol and drugs to cope with problems is how the brain depends on the substances as a solution. The brain releases chemicals or hormones when basic needs are met, such as hunger, thirst, and sex, which leads us to repeat those behaviors over and over again.

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How Overindulging can Corrupt Reward Pathways of the Brain

Those neurochemicals that are commonly associated with this type of reward/pleasure system in the brain are dopamine, serotonin, glutamine. The same set of neurochemicals are released with the consumption of alcohol and drugs that create a sense of pleasure or a change in mood. This is what’s known as a reward, or what is referred to as “the payoff.”

Over time, the continued stimulation of the pleasure center chemicals causes changes to the reward, motivation, and memory centers. Once the body and brain becomes dependent on the “payoffs” of these chemicals, it becomes necessary to abuse the substances in order to just feel normal and to function properly.

Without the substances, the person experiences cravings and an intense desire for the substance and will use them despite negative, or even dangerous consequences.

The Results of Addiction

When an individual becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol, their world is often upside down in every sense of the word. The brain is hijacked in a sense that an individual’s ability to make normal and healthy choices diminishes. Self-care, caring for others, and taking care of responsibilities become less important which leads to relationship strain, financial stress, and/or legal problems.

Everything about the individual changes when they become addicted to alcohol or drugs. We have heard families say before that they did not even recognize the person that their loved one became when they were using drugs.

An individual who is addicted to drugs or alcohol will no longer have interest in their previous passions. Instead, their life will revolved around acquiring their drug of choice. When addiction completely hijacks a person’s life, it can be extremely tragic to watch. Hopefully, the individual will realize that they have a serious problem and ask for help.

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