As Oscar Wilde put it, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” Moderation is key to leading a successful and healthy life. But for the 22 million Americans addicted to drugs and alcohol, moderation is becoming a distant concept. Today, americans are addicted to everything, from an increasing array of drugs to gambling, sex, and even Internet. Addiction is plaguing the lives of individuals, their families, and society overall. The overall annual cost for substance abuse and the indirect factors of substance abuse, such as crime and health related costs, exceed well over half a trillion dollars. Substance abuse has also been linked to various public issues, such as unemployment, child abuse, domestic violence, dropping out of school, and other crimes.
Moreover, the health care system is pressed for a different form of addiction, food addiction. Food is an item of necessity, providing sustenance to survive. If people are addicted to food, how does their brain alter, especially given that everyone needs to eat, but not everyone becomes addicted? What in the food addicts brain or behavior makes it an addiction? Or does food addiction have the preconceived notion of being a character flaw in which people simply cannot control their eating?
In the 1930s, evidence for the biological nature of addiction surfaced. Previously, society believed that addiction was a symptom of an individual’s weak will power or failing morals. However, today the evidence that addiction is a neurobiological disorder with genetic, environmental, and psychosocial components is overwhelming. The National Institute of Drug Abuse defines addiction as a “chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences to the individual who is addicted and to those around them”. It is know understood that addiction is not a choice, it is a disease. Hopefully, by understanding how addiction manifests itself as a biological disease, specialists will be able to improve the treatment and prevention of addiction.
“Drug Addiction and It’s Underlying neurobiological Basis: Neuroimaging Evidence for the Involvement of the Frontal Cortex” by Goldstein and Volkow (2002) provided an overview of the biological basis of addiction. The authors describe the cyclical nature of addiction that involves intoxication, bingeing, withdrawal, and craving. Addiction occurs because drugs increase the dopamine neurotransmitter in the brain, which provides the reinforcing properties, or “high”. The mesolimbic and mesocortical dopamine systems, or reward pathways, are associated with this reinforcement, craving and, ultimately, addiction. The article provides evidence, through neuroimages of the brain, for the reinforcing properties in the frontal cortex. This study proves how little is understood about addiction because it is 2002 that we begin to acknowledge the frontal cortex’s involvement in addiction.
7 thoughts on “Everything in Moderation, including Moderation”
This is a nice entry, Lia. I remember going to the SFN meeting in October and this woman gave an amazing talk on addiction. She specifically talked about dopaminergic systems and synaptic tagging. It was clearly over my head, but I enjoyed it a lot. I will try to find one of her papers!!
Drug abuse is an interesting topic, because I would think that every one of knows at least one person who has an addiction of some sort. What interests me is how you refer to the ‘biological basis’ of addiction that was found way back when. I find this interesting because I feel as though there really isn’t a biological ‘basis’ for addiction–rather, I think that there is more of a psychological aspect, as well as an environmental aspect. Thing about it: people aren’t just inherently addicted to something-they have to have an experience with the substance and form the addiction. Some drugs take 1 use to cause addicition, some take many. Either way, you need the drug first, right? SO after the initial abuse because you chose to do the drug, your biology changes, leading to addiction. So that being said, I have a hard time believing that there is something biological that leads you to becoming an addict. Just a thought.
I really like that you bring up food addiction because eating is such a big part of life, and we ALL do it. We eat to nourish ourselves, in social situations, and even when we are board. There is obviously more to food then just the nourishment we get from it. I too wonder what it is that changes food from being only for nourishment to something that can be abused. Is it society that has created the mentality to abuse it, or is there actually something in the food?
I was thinking from Jenn’s perspective while I read a lot of your post, Lia, and I really liked hearing your thoughts because they played devil’s advocate to mine. I kept thinking that maybe the brain of an addict looks biologically different from others’ brains because the process of becoming addicted changed the brain, rather than the changed brain prompting the process of becoming addicted. I obviously understand the biological factors that keep someone addicted, but the process of becoming addicted in the first place is a little less clear to me.
I do agree that there is a “chicken-egg” conundrum for addiction. Do we become addicts because of out brain chemistry or is our brain the way it is because we are addicts? I think as far as food addiction it may be a lack of inhibition. There may be an inhibition to stop eating when it is felt that you are full but also your sense of fullness may be inhibited and you may never feel full! It’s hard to imagine an addiction to food, but for me it’s hard to imagine any addiction.
I definitely agree with the idea that the environment plays a significant role in development of addiction, but when doing research for my thesis off late I found evidence for the biological basis of it too. For instance, research done by Bond and Di Guisto (1975) found that pups whose mothers consumed ethanol during pregnancy, also consumed significantly more ethanol in a preference test at a later stage in their life when compared to the control animals suggesting a prenatal influence on the offspring’s brain. I think this definitely provides insight about the role of an innate genomes or biological make up in dictating potential trends of addiction in human beings and their off spring thereafter. So the way I see it, either of the two- environment or biology- can play an initiating role in addiction.
Source: Bond,N., & Di Guisto, E. (1975). Effects of prenatal alcohol consumption on open-field behaviour and alcohol preference in rats. Psychopharmacology, 46, 163-165.
Lia, wonderful set up to our addiction section. This is a meaty area to be sure, as is clear from the great comments too.