New Studies In Addiction 2/2

toronto addiction
Perhaps it was a type of music you listen to. When I was young, there was a type of music I used to listen to. I used to listen to KISS. I used to enjoy the music of KISS. And as I grew up and matured and my taste got better, I no longer listen to KISS with the same reverence as I used to do. I kind of outgrew it and it wasn't a big battle, it wasn't a conscious thing. It was just I grew up. And what this study is saying is 60% of people do this when it comes to drugs. The fact is frequent cited that on a regular basis, patients in hospitals are receiving much stronger dosages opiate than heroin addicts on the street and almost never become addicted. Dr. Mitchell Marks of the National Institute of Health reported on 11,000 people who were treated with narcotics for cancer or after surgery. The research indicates that among these 11,000 people, there was one case of a serious addiction, 100th of 1% and 3 other questionable cases that were noted.

Dr. Marks concludes that the real reason people who are given narcotics for medical reason do not become addicted to them is they do not take the drug for euphoria or for escape. They do not think of themselves as drug addicts, and indignantly reject the label as it's suggested to them. This is by Dr. Mitchell Marks, interviewed on National Public Radio's morning edition, May 4th, 1989. And quoted the "addiction rare in patients treated with narcotics" which is a published in the New England Journal of Medicine 302 in 1980.

So isn't it interesting when we reject the label of addict, when we're getting the same drug yet it's for a medical reason, i.e., these cancer patients, the likelihood of becoming addicted in 11,000 cases was one and three questionable, not even 1%, nor even half of 1% of people. If it was truly addicted, then these 11,000 people would have consistently needed to have that opiate in their life but they didn't. And I'm not just making this stuff up, I have it in front of me. You can research it.

New advances in the field of neuroscience and neuroanatomy occur at a lightning speed and challenge and even contradict this previously held assumption. Most of this research centers on the concept of neuroplasticity, which is the brain's ability to reconstruct itself by forming new neural connections due to the environment, behavior, or neutral stimulation. Essentially, the disease model views addiction as simply a disease of neuroplasticity for a one sided view at best. Neuroscience is a young discipline and the distinctions between brain development and brain pathways remain mucky and muddy at best, i.e., terrain for drawing arbitrary lines in the sand. For example, the brain changes observed a long term substance abusers are nearly identical to those seen in people struggling with obesity, porn aficionados, gambling, internet addicts, compulsive shoppers, and simply those involved in any intense romantic relationship.

They involve over activation of a part of the brain that directs goal pursuit. They, and I'm gonna mispronounce this, the striatum, S-T-R-I-A-T-U-M. In response to cues predicting their preferred rewards and long-term desensitization in response to rewards more generally. This is from "The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science." It was published in 2007 New York Viking Press. So what does this tell us? It tells us that literally our brain is being recreated every moment of every day. One thing for sure, the literally 5 billion plus cells that you have in your body, one year from now, they will all be gone. They will be dead and you'll have five billion other cells have been respawn in their place. You are not the same person now even though you may look similar than you were a year ago. All your cells have died and been respawned.

And here are a few thoughts from Marc Lewis's excellent book "The Biology of Desire" that describes brilliantly what happens with addiction and why addiction is not a disease. So I'm quoting the book here, "Bad habits self-organize like any other habits, bad habits like addiction grow more deeply and often more quickly than other bad habits, because they result from feedback fueled by intense desire. And because they crowd out the availability or appeal of alternative pursuits, but they are still fundamentally habits, habits of thinking, feeling and acting. The brain continues to shape itself with each repeat of the addictive experience until the addictive habit converges with other habits lodged within one's own personality. But the networks become more robust and more efficient with repetition, and the learning gets deeper. Think of a dozen little roads being replaced by several main roads, and maybe eventually a freeway. This formula for learning is addiction. Your first snort of cocaine probably produced a novel firing pattern. If not, you'd have tried a second snort and found another dealer."

"Then each time you," not you, course I'm not talking about you, "but each time you snorted Coke, more synaptics will change, reinforcing this firing pattern, this cocaine configuration. This configuration would soon connect to regions all over your brain. These includes part of the cortex, the perceptual cortex in charge of seeing and hearing, the prefrontal cortex in charge of thinking and planning, and the motor regions in charge of putting those plans into action. But they also include the limbic regions involved in feeling and motives. The amygdala and hippocampus as well as the striatum," yes, I'm mispronouncing that, "which is not usually defined as limpid, per se, but close enough. So it's more or less the whole brain."

"The parts involved in thought and perception and the parts dedicated to feelings and instincts, they get included in the cocaine network, which is why thoughts, feelings, and action patterns change and crystallize together." Again, this is taken from "The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease" by Marc Lewis. There's also a strong correlation between early childhood trauma and adversity or neurocognitive implications. In 1995 physicians Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda launched a large scale epistemological study that probed the children and child and adolescent histories of 17,000 subjects, comparing their childhood experiences to their later adult health records. The results were shocking. Nearly two thirds of the individual that encountered one or more adverse childhood experiences or ACE from this point forward, a term that both of these Felitti and Anda coined to encompass the chronic, unpredictable, and stress-inducing events that some children faced.

"These included growing with depressed or alcoholic parent, losing their parent to divorce or other causes, or enduring chronic humiliation, emotional neglect, sexual or physical abuse. These forms of emotional trauma went beyond the typical everyday challenges of growing up. The ACE study indicates that experienced chronic and unpredictable toxic stress in childhood predisposes us to a constellation of chronic conditions in adulthood. But why? Today in labs across the country, neuroscientist appearing into the want indisputable brain-body connection and breaking down on a biological level exactly how the stress we face and when we're younger catches up to us when we're adult altering our bodies ourselves and even our DNA." And what they found may surprise you.

"Number one, epigenetic shifts. When we're frost in over and over again into stressful, induced into situations during childhood or adolescents, our physiological stress response shift into overdrive. And we lose the ability to respond appropriately and effectively to future stressors. This happens due to a process known as gene," I'm not even gonna try to pronounce this, M-E-T-H-Y-L-A-T-I-O-N, "in which small chemical markers or methyl groups adhere to the genes involved in regulating the stress response and prevent these genes from doing their jobs. As the function of these genes become altered, the stress response becomes reset on a high for life, promoting inflammation and disease. Two, size and shape of the brain. Scientists have found that when we're developing our brain, if it's chronically stressed, it releases a hormone that actually shrinks the size of the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for processing emotions and memory and managing stress."

"Three, neurological pruning. When a child faces unpredictable chronic stress or adverse childhood experiences, microglial cells can get really worked up and crank out neurochemicals that lead to a neuro inflammation and the application of the pruning process. Four, telomeres. Early childhood trauma can make children seem older, emotionally speaking than their peers. Now researchers have discovered that adverse childhood experiences may prematurely old children on a cellular level as well. Adults who have faced early trauma show greater erosion in what are known as the telomeres. These are the protective caps that sit on the end of DNA strands like the caps on shoelaces to keep the genome healthy and intact."

"Five, different fault mode network. Inside each of our brains is a network of neural circuitry known as the default mode network which unite areas of the brain associated with memory and thought integration. Kids who faced early traumas have less connectivity into the default mode network, even decades after the trauma has occurred. So they may have trouble reacting appropriately to the world around them. Six, brain body pathway. For a child who has experienced adversity, the relationship between mental and physical suffering is strong. The inflammatory chemicals that flood a child's body when she's chronically stressed aren't confined to the body alone and they're shuttled literally from head to toe."

"Seven, brain connectivity. Children and teens who had experienced chronic childhood adversity showed weaker neural connections between the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. Traumatic memories, early childhood adversity, and post-traumatic stress, a neuropsychotherapy reconsideration approach. Persistent unwanted memories are believed to be the key contributors to drug addiction and the chronic relapse problem over the lifetime of an adult. However, contrary the long held idea that memories are static and fixed, new studies in the last decade have showed that memories are instead quite dynamic and malleable."

"When a memory is retrieved, reactivated, it becomes liable for a period of time with new information merging and modifying the existing representation before it is again reconsilerated to maintain long-term memory. In the light of this discovery, memory is now viewed as being largely reconstructive rather than simply replaying stored information." Now, if you'd like to study or you'd like the citation of these studies, then please shoot me an email at, I am taking them from Melissa Tears and our addiction course that I did, and she compiled all of this.

"Now another interesting thing about memory reconsideration research in substance abuse population, once the most challenging aspects of drug addiction is the craving and relapse cycle that can occur for many years. The persistence of drug seeking and drug taking behavior suggests that drug associated learning and memory processes contrived significantly to the relapse. This is because repeated drug taking behavior engages neurocircuitry involved in learning and memory of drug related information. With each drug use, drug related memories are reactivated, retrieved, and are believed to be reconcilirated to maintain and thereby strengthen their circuits. These are encouraging new studies that show even while established long term memories may be susceptible to disruption by interfering with reconsideration during memory retrieval, these findings indicate promise for use in this approach as a therapy for disrupting the long-term lasting effects of memories that often trigger relapses in the cycle of addiction."

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