By Ronnie Biemans, Dec 16 2016 06:19PM
The wisest sentence of the twentieth century was E.M. Forster's -- "only connect." But we have created an environment and a culture that cut us off from connection, or offer only the parody of it offered by the Internet. The rise of addiction is a symptom of a deeper sickness in the way we live -- constantly directing our gaze towards the next shiny object we should buy, rather than the human beings all around us.
- Johann Hari, Author of Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs
Nearly every day we hear news of someone who is seriously ill or who has died as a result of drug or alcohol use. Sometimes we are compassionate, but more often than not we pass judgement on these individuals. However, it is not a lack of self-discipline that sets one on the addictive path but rather the powerful craving and biological drive to seek pleasure that causes the activation, over activation, and eventual exhaustion and depletion of the brain’s reward system. With substance use disorder, “Instead of achieving reward system activation through adaptive behaviors, drugs of abuse activate the reward pathways.” From a neurological perspective, drug use affects the way the brain functions in a number of ways. All of us have a reward pathway that is activated in part by dopamine, a neurotransmitter that serves a number of functions in the human body. In order to understand the powerful forces at play in addiction it is essential to understand the role of dopamine. Dopamine release is a key element in the human reward pathway. We depend on our brain’s ability to release dopamine in order to experience and to motivate our responses to the pleasures of everyday life, such as food and sex.