Addiction research has made extraordinary advances over the last couple of decades. The sites of action in the brain of virtually all the major drugs of abuse, including cocaine, heroin, amphetamine and alcohol have now been identified.
The main components of the ‘reward system’, and how it connects to brain areas involved in motivation and emotion, are now also defined, and much has been discovered about the chemical messenger systems such as dopamine and noradrenaline that are central to the mechanism of addiction.
The activation of the brain’s reward system is central to problems arising from drug and alcohol addiction; the rewarding feeling that people experience as a result of taking drugs or alcohol is so profound that they often neglect other normal activities and duties in favour of drinking or taking drugs. And they keep using them even when they know it will, and does, cause problems.
While the pharmacological mechanisms for each type of drug (alcohol, cocaine, MDMA, ketamine etc.) are different, the activation of the reward system is similar across all substances in producing feelings of pleasure or euphoria which makes the chances of cross-addiction i.e. swapping one addiction, drugs for alcohol or vice versa, very high. It's with this in mind that adopting an abstinence model, such as the one Help Me Stop uses, is more likely to bring about effective outcomes.
Many professional bodies such as the American Psychiatric Association and the Royal College of Psychiatrists agree that drug and alcohol addiction is nevertheless a complex condition of the brain manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence.
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