It is customary to say that in a dependent brain, there are between three and five people (or forces) who live.One, who has sequestered the will, seeks only the well-being produced by the addiction. Another anticipates what this will produce in the short and long term: anxiety, depression, abstinence syndrome … The other "me" have the appearance of loneliness, the weight of consciousness, the shape of the family and the impact of fear.
The presence of all these voices does not answer at all to the classic profile of someone with a multiple personality.What you need to know about addictions is that they completely fragment identity, thought and will.Addiction is like a thief waiting patiently in a corner to enter someone's home and upset every ounce and every fragment of our brain, our mind, our dignity.
"I convinced myself that, for a mysterious reason, I was invulnerable and would not sink into addiction, but it does not negotiate and, little by little, it has spread inside me like mist."
Sometimes even the most advanced techniques of cognitive-behavioral therapies are not effective. The medical perspective and the pharmaceutical perspective must therefore be considered as additional strategies for regaining control of a dependent brain.
However, we must not go wrong. Medications relieve abstinence syndrome and many associated side effects. However, these neuronal pathways that generate addiction, as well as certain habits of thought and behavior, do not always respond immediately to treatment.It is a long and costly process that requires a multidimensional approach.
This leadsmany people with a chemical or behavioral addiction to end up in dead ends, from which they come out only when they find a strategy, a different point of view or a help, according to their characteristics and their needs.
The dependent brain: the compulsion of the emotional emptiness
When we talk about addiction, it is common to visualize someone who consumes opiates, hallucinogens or synthetic drugs such as amphetamines. We often forget thataddiction has many faces, shapes and behaviors.There are people who are addicted to shopping, those who can not leave their mobile phones … And people dependent on sex, sports, games, certain foods …
A dependent person is not just an alcoholic or someone who uses hard drugs, drugs …It is, basically, unadjusted behaviors that make a person feel physically and psychologically dependent on a specific substance or behavior.From there, we find a whole range of possibilities with the same result in the key: an inability to live a normal life, a deterioration of health and a great suffering.
What do all the processes of addiction have in common?
If we ask ourselves now if there is a common element to all these addictions, it would seem that yes. In the fourthInternational Conference on Behavioral Addictionswhich took place in Budapest last year and which was promoted by the medical journal Journal of Behavioral Addictions,it was concluded that this common denominator was compulsion.
Naomi Fineberg, psychiatrist and specialist in neuropharmacology atUniversity NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT) of Hertfordshire, England. She explained thatpeople with addiction have obsessive compulsive disorder. However, they also have low cognitive flexibility and limited or no personal goals.
The dependent brain always displays some alterations in the ventral regions of the prefrontal cortex. It is an area related to the emotional sense and our ability to control.
So, a lot of the neurologists and addiction specialists agree to say the following:dependent people replace an emotional need with addiction.However, in their quest to quench this emptiness, they drift toward compulsive behaviors that feed back. The brain is unable to control them.
The neurological mechanism of addiction
The dependent brain works differently.His only goal is to find the well-being he gets through the use of this substance or the activity of this behavior. He who generates a momentary and limited pleasure. Gradually, this "stimulant" external replaces the natural rewards of the body and the brain is asking for more.
- The work of dopamine in any addiction process is essentialbecause it generates this desire that "lights" the other brain regions. Thus, they all focus on this cause and this need. The striatum, for example, is the first to start. He "recruits" structures such as the mesencephalon and the orbitofrontal cortex. The whole brain understands that this substance, this behavior, is a priority and focuses on this goal.
- In general,all drugs create serious alterations in the activity of the dopaminergic systemmesocorticolimbic. Thus, if consumption becomes chronic, neuroadaptative and neuroplastic changes will appear, to the point of completely altering the structure of this system.
- The prefrontal cortex is one of the most affected.Drastic changes occur because of addictions. Our emotions and their regulation are altered, as are our cognitive processes. We have more trouble concentrating, reasoning clearly, controlling ourselves and making decisions.
On the other hand, we can not forget an important aspect. When we talk about alcohol and drug use, the changes that occur in the brain are huge, sometimes devastating.The alterations generated in the prefrontal cortex, amygdala and striatum are numerous and often irreversible.
Is addiction a chronic disease?
As we have pointed out, the dependent brain can often have chronic alterations.The intoxication by certain substances deteriorates the memory in the short term. The ability to assimilate new information is also affected.Alcohol, for example, has a serious impact on the brain. This can interfere in aspects such as motor coordination.
- Thus, experts from the National Institute of Drug Abuse point out that addiction is essentially a brain disease, recurrent and chronic. However, many neurologists question this statement.
- The key to such an affirmation lies in a concept that we all know and have heard more than once: brain neuroplasticity.
- The brain is not like the heart, stomach or pancreas.It has exceptional quality: it was created to change, produce new neural connections, learn, train to create new tissues and new nerve cells. If our brains had not changed throughout our lives, we would be in a state of coma today. We evolve, we change, we develop new capacities …
What does all this mean and how does this relate to the dependent brain?It simply means that there is hope.Many patients with brain damage are able to improve certain aspects.Thus, they have a better quality of life.The same thing can happen with people with addiction.
The key would be to generate new synaptic patterns based on new behaviors and thoughts.This is a window to change that is already developing in many clinics. She enjoys good success rates. Science and knowledge about the human brain are changing all the time. It will therefore be easier, little by little, to offer better answers to many needs.
Watch it closely!