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The Addicted Brain | Science of Addiction | Detox to Rehab - Part 1

Jun 18

All about the addicted Brain

Thanks for joining us here. At science of addiction. I'm ready still, many of us know addiction to be a chronic illness that alters the structure of the brain. What actually happens inside the brain when drugs been administered? What changes do you often see as a result?

Here in this series, we're going to further explore the nature of addiction and how it affects the structure of the brain. Before we can understand the full sway of addiction, it would make sense for us to understand the primary areas of the brain that are affected by addiction. There are three main areas of the brain that you often find associated with addiction, the first one being the prefrontal cortex, the limbic system, and the midbrain. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for all the executive functions in the brain, such as your decision making processes, your logic and your own reasoning. It's often makes sense of our higher function. When we decide whether or not something is a good or a bad idea. The limbic system gets the reward circuit. 

This is responsible for remembering a lot of pleasant experiences and reminding us that perhaps we could do it again. For example, if you were to eat cake for the very first time, your limbic system will undoubtedly say that cake is such a lovely experience and should eat cake again sometime. Finally, you have the midbrain, and the brain is responsible for all of our survival functions, whether it's our vision or hearing or flight and flight responses. The midbrain is responsible for the next 15 seconds. It does not do anything past that amount of time. 

So when drugs and alcohol are first administered on the system, there's much surge on a neurotransmitter called dopamine. And dopamine is primarily responsible for all your cognitive functions, movement and some senses of euphoria, but not to the scale of when you're actually using drugs or alcohol when someone uses a psychoactive substance that unleashes an inhuman amount of dopamine, something that you can never get from any natural experience. In fact, the brain even has a hard time comprehending how much dopamine is now in the system, it releases another neurotransmitter known as glutamate. 

Glutamate is responsible for your memory functions, more glutamate that is in the system, the more likely you are to remember this experience and in greater detail. These neurotransmitters also affect the nature of the midbrain. When you have these many neurotransmitters going on the midbrain becomes more and more sensitive to the needs of using drugs and alcohol. And these surges of neurotransmitters also affects the nature of the midbrain. 

The more glutamate and dopamine it's in the system increases the sensitivity of the midbrain to drugs or alcohol, making it a higher priority in the brain function.

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