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Biological Explanations For Addiction Notes

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Biological explanations for addiction

Easier to understand in relation to chemical addictions, e.g. nicotine, than to behavioural addictions e.g. gambling People are most susceptible in the initiation phase, as the model argues that people have a predisposed biological vulnerability If a person quits their addiction, a biological predisposition makes relapse more likely

Role of dopamine:

Initiation - research shows addictive drugs stimulate the reward circuit in the brain - rewarding experiences trigger the release of dopamine and effectively tell the brain to do it again - encourages repetition Maintenance - chronic exposure to drugs eventually results in a reduction in the activity of positive reward circuits in the brain (down regulation) - reward circuit becomes less active, so they become tolerant and the reward circuit is less satisfied - generates a stress situation for the addict, characterised by withdrawal symptoms - negative state then becomes the driving force in the drug craving - user no longer takes the drug to gain a pleasurable experience, but to avoid an unpleasurable state - as a result of down regulation, the drug levels required to trigger the brain reward system increases Relapse - eventually the desire for the drug may assume more importance than most other desires - despite the fact that the drug may offer little or no pleasure now, the brain still receives difficultto-resist signals of imminent reward that force the addict to take the drug again - frontal cortex has become less effective at making decisions and judging the consequences of actions - this can heighten the risk of relapse in addicts long after they have stopped taking a drug - still vulnerable Caine et al 2007 found that mice engineered to lack the D1 receptor for dopamine do not self-administer cocaine when given a change to do so - normal nice in comparison will keep returning for more as they find it highly addictive, just as humans do - although implications of this research for humans is unclear, it is clear evidence that dopamine receptors play a key role in addiction o Issues with animal research

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