To summarize, in this module we have learned that:
- Addiction is a chronic (incurable) illness
- It is located in the brain
- It is predominantly a dopamine-based illness that affects our ability to feel reward.
- Other brain regions are affected too – especially memory, learning and impulse control.
- Dopamine helps us to target useful rewards like food, but this natural process has become dysfunctional in addicted people.
- When people start taking drugs, a process called LTP helps to strengthen the brain networks that are relevant to that drug (including environmental cues)
- People who have poor dopamine function from birth (or due to adverse early environments) are more likely to target drugs because the rewarded feelings they get when they take them compensate for poor mid-brain dopamine function.
- This can lead to dopamine depletion because the dopamine signal is “too loud” and causes the brain to kill off dopamine receptor sites leaving the person even more unrewarded than they were to begin with.
- Treatment is necessary because addiction is a chronic illness. Chronic illnesses need to be treated, they cannot be ‘cured’ (or rarely).
- Recovery activities work in a safer way than drugs to restore mid brain dopamine function. Being part of something, identifying with others, and finding potent sources of meaning are the most effective long term medicines for addictive disorders.
Exercise 4: Please turn to your workbook and complete the quiz.