Brain on Chemicals

Fortunately, our brain has a blood-brain-barrier (BBB) that is 95% successful in protecting it from foreign substances. Unfortunately, the BBB is easily crossed by alcohol and drugs like cocaine, meth, and heroin. Crossing the blood-brain-barrier allows for activation of the brain’s Limbic system’s pleasure center. The consumption of drugs and alcohol is about getting high (pleasure), and to avoid the dissatisfaction of one’s life. Chemicals are about dopamine; a neurotransmitter that gives pleasure. Dopamine is Nature’s brain pharmacy that motivates behavior (a good thing). The trouble comes with addiction. Those who use chemicals chase a constant overstimulation of the pleasure center (a bad thing). The chase is for the euphoric effects of dopamine release. Dopamine is a natural award being introduced artificially. Artificial chemical stimulation is the opposite of natural stimulation and interferes with a natural neurochemical balance. Drugs and alcohol inadvertently distort this natural system by releasing 2-10 times the dopamine if rewarded naturally. Ultra-euphoric brain stimulation has the inebriated person come back for more and more of dopamine release. This is addiction (psychological). Chemical addiction is a fatal pathological psychological attraction to drugs and alcohol of “chasing the dragon.” It has an overpowering and depowering effect where the addict can lose the freedom to make choices. There is a genetic predisposition (seed) of chemical use for some people. This inherited predilection is brought to life in the environment (soil) the addict is raised in. (Research based on genome meta-analysis has discovered a variant of the beta-klotho gene that suppresses the desire to drink. It will be interesting to see if additional research on this gene can be applied to those genetically prone towards alcohol). Addiction is about substance abuse. The only way to control the addiction is to eschew, abstain from, and remove the substance that is being abused (much easier said than done). 

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