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Study May Pinpoint the Part of Brain That Triggers Addiction

Study May Pinpoint the Part of Brain That Triggers Addiction

A new study has identified a part of brain that could trigger addiction. This is the same part of the brain that processes emotion.

The new findings of a new study were published in the latest issue of the Journal of Neuroscience and reveals that the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for processing emotions, could also be instrumental in the development of drug addiction among some individuals.

Researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a study using rats and focused on the brain’s almond-shaped mass that can also create intense cravings for foods high in sugar. A laser light was used to stimulate the rats’ brains, which would light up for a few seconds whenever they pushed a lever to earn a sugary treat. A second lever, when pushed by the rats, would also earn them a treat but, did not include the amygdala activation.

What the scientists found was that the rats only focused on the lever that triggered their amygdala, ignoring the second one. Furthermore, the laser proved to be meaningless to the rats if there was no sugary treat provided.

Study May Pinpoint the Part of Brain That Triggers Addiction

These findings suggest how and why addictive drugs can be so compelling to use when the amygdala region of the brain is triggered.

“One reason they can be so problematic for certain individuals is their ability to become almost the sole focus of their daily lives, at the cost of one’s health, job, family and general well-being,” said the study’s lead author, Mike Robinson, a former post-doctoral U-M fellow and currently an assistant professor of psychology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. “Understanding the pathways involved in addictive-like behavior could provide new therapeutic avenues for treating addiction and other compulsive disorders.”

Another study, which was released last October, also focused on the brain’s role in the triggering and development of addiction, and concluded that the brains of gambling addicts function differently than those of drug addicts. Researchers in London and Cambridge found that compulsive gamblers’ opioid systems reacted differently but, that they also didn’t release nearly as many endorphins as those without gambling addiction. What this means is this: in order to experience the same “rush” as a non-addict, gambling addicts must do more, which could further fuel their addiction.

This is exciting news considering there is still much debate regarding the nature of addiction. Although the ‘disease model’ has been around for more than half a century, understanding addiction is still muddy waters, and a strong negative stigma still haunts the disease, as many people’s perception is that becoming addicted to a substance or a behavior has more to do with willpower than brain chemistry.

Any kind of addiction, whether it’s food addiction, gambling addiction, alcohol addiction, or drug addiction, is a serious medical condition for which help is available. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist. We are available around the clock to take your call.

Same Difference: Substituting Addictions

Same Difference: Substituting Addictions

Author: Justin Mckibben

Most addicts whether recovering or not can tell you that not all addicts are the same, and so of course not all pathways to addiction are the same. There of course will be some overlapping factors that influence someone in a way that contributes to them being addicted to a drug or process, but some experts believe there is no ‘addictive personality’. Genetics and neurochemistry affect the tendency toward addiction, as well as environmental and social factors. So it should be no surprise that people who are trying to recover from one addiction can tend to lean on a new one. It may be obvious to some that switching drugs for alcohol is a terrible idea for an addict, but what about other habits they may not take too seriously?

If you have ever been in any stage of recovery or treatment from an addiction you have probably pondered over the idea, or have at least heard the general concept of substituting addictions. To substitute your addiction basically means you go from smoking to eating or maybe from drinking alcohol to compulsive shopping, or even from sex to over-working. Many addicts substitute one addiction for another in an attempt to compensate for what they may feel is absent from their life, whether it be an emotional or psychological void they feed the need to fill.

It’s important to distinguish co –occurring addictions from the concept of substitute addictions. Co-occurring addiction is commonly referred to as a dual diagnosis, which basically means that a person has two or more addictions that exist simultaneously. Like a lot of us addicts develop dangerous and detrimental eating habits during active addiction, and those habits can become eating disorders quickly.

Studies and Surveys

Dr. Steven Sussman, a professor of preventive medicine and psychology at the University of Southern California, co-authored a paper where he categorized 11 “relatively common behaviors” as addictions. Among the list of these common addictive behaviors were:

  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol use
  • Illicit drug use
  • Binge-eating
  • Gambling
  • Internet use
  • Love
  • Sex
  • Excessive exercise
  • Work
  • Shopping

Then the paper reviewed 83 studies to see which behaviors were most prevalent over a 12-month period. Each study had over 500 people, and they found that 23% of all the surveyed individuals had one or more addictions—or, co-occurring addictions. Remarkably, 47% of all US adults had at least one addiction. According to the same study there are two general types of addicts that are people who have substitute addictions.

Dosing with Dopamine

Dopamine, also known as anhedonia, plays a large role in the substitution of one addiction for another, as the same mesolimbic pathways are activated in all forms of addictions. So either addictions based on substance or behavior produces the same kind of brain chemistry that the user is really using for. After getting clean and sober, many people feel a lack of the neurotransmitter dopamine, or the inability to experience the pleasure typically felt when they have positive events or joys in life.

One solution to this, Dr. Sussman believes, is to engage in positive addictions that are likely to “jump start” the persons experience of dopamine activity on a somewhat regular basis. While some of these activities are healthier than risky sex or gambling, the method of diverting the attention could also have negative effects, and create another addiction. Things like:

  • Exercise
  • Work
  • A hobby
  • Reading
  • Gaming
  • Movies

Avoiding Additional Addictions

Knowing that addiction can come in all shapes and sizes, with different circumstances and situations, but still the same devastation can happen when a person develops an addiction, the recovering addict should be aware of the danger in over-compensating for their uncomfortable state with outside stimulations. While the drug addict obviously cannot use drugs in moderation, the true addict must be aware that drinking alcohol or behaving in many ways can get them started back down a self-destructive path.

Moderation in things like work and exercise is important, because even though these things can be productive and healthy, when the individual comes to depend on that outside source for happiness and serenity, they are only prolonging their struggles. Dual-diagnosis treatment is definitely possible for people who have more than one addiction at a time, and at the end of the day most addicts will tell you that addiction is less about a particular substance and more about the mentality and the behavior, which is why substitution of addiction is so easy to fall into.

Substituting addictions is dangerous, because any addict or alcoholic can easily develop an issue with another substance, or even a behavior, that is detrimental to them and the people closest to them. Whether the addiction is an illicit drug, drinking alcohol, gambling or even shopping it can be something that takes a serious toll on your life, but there is always a way to recover. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Drugs That Cause Behavioral Addictions: Can They Teach Us About Addiction?

Drugs That Cause Behavioral Addictions: Can They Teach Us About Addiction?

By Cheryl Steinberg

According to a new study, abnormal behaviors such as pathological gambling, sex addiction, and compulsive shopping are linked to the use of certain drugs commonly used to treat Parkinson’s disease. These behaviors are labeled ‘abnormal’ because they were not present in the patient prior to the use of such medications.

“In our view, these medications should be used less frequently and with great caution, paying close attention to possible untoward effects on behavior and impulse control,” said Dr. Howard D. Weiss of Sinai Hospital of Baltimore and Dr. Gregory M. Pontone of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, writing in an editorial about the new study.

The Study’s Findings

In people with Parkinson’s disease, over time, the brain cells that make dopamine die off. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps regulate movement, emotions and experiencing pleasure. Dopamine receptor agonists are drugs that mimic the function of the neurotransmitter.

Researchers examined 1,580 reports of people in the United States and 21 other countries experiencing compulsive gambling, hypersexuality (sex addiction), compulsive shopping or other abnormal and extreme behavioral shifts after taking medication between 2003 and 2012. Of these, they found that 710 reported such changes and involved taking drugs called dopamine receptor agonists, which are used to treat Parkinson’s disease, while the remaining 870 cases involved people who were taking all of the other types of drugs combined.

Study author Thomas J. Moore, a senior scientist at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices in Alexandria, Virginia said doctors and caregivers of Parkinson’s patients “need to be on the lookout for this kind of behavior” and understand it may be linked to the use of medication. The importance of new findings is that they inform warnings about the potential side effects of those drugs so that prescribing doctors are aware of them and can then make their patients aware of them, too.

What It Means for Treating Addiction

The findings are important for two reasons: one, they reveal risky side effects of which both doctor and patient should be aware so that they can make an informed decision about whether or not to take the meds and two, they give researchers a better understanding of how abnormal behaviors develop in general, and how such behaviors may be related to the brain receptor that is targeted by the drug.

But also, it shows promise of insight into the disease of addiction, which could lead to more effective ways of treating it. So…drugs that cause behavioral addictions: can they teach us about addiction?

It’s only recently that doctors started seeing a link between the use of these kinds ofdrugs and the occurrence of impulse control disorders, such as pathological gambling, hypersexuality and uncontrollable spending

That is, this new research might help researchers to better understand how abnormal behaviors, such as behavioral addictions, develop and how they may be related to the brain’s D3 receptor. The D3 receptor has also been investigated as a possible target for treatments for people with addictions, the researchers wrote in the study.

Behavioral addictions are just as damaging to one’s health, social relationships, and career. If you struggle with a gambling addition, sex addiction, shopping addiction, or else a substance abuse disorder call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist. We are available around the clock to answer your questions.


Gambling Addiction

Gambling Addiction

Author: Justin Mckibben

Addiction is not a word that is limited to alcohol and illicit narcotics, it is an illness that comes in several forms of behavioral health issues that sometimes can fly a little longer under the radar as a result of being more socially acceptable. Gambling addiction is an impulse-control disorder, because the individual has no ability to control the impulse to gamble once it takes hold. Gambling addicts do not have to gamble every day, and the issue is not that they cannot afford it, it is the stain compulsive gambling puts on every aspect of their lives.

Gambling Addiction: Compulsive Gambling

Compulsive gambling (pathological gambling) is when an individual who is unable to resist their impulses to gamble, be it on the slots at a casino, card games and dice, or even betting on sporting events. Gambling addiction often even creates severe personal, social, and obviously financial consequences. The urge to gamble becomes so great that tension can only be relieved by more compulsive gambling.

There is a very fine line between gambling a little too much and compulsive gambling. The critical sign of gambling addiction is often hidden from the persons own awareness by things like denial. Many compulsive gamblers typically do not know they have a problem. Admitting you have a problem, or may have a problem, is the first step to recovery from gambling addiction. Unfortunately this realization normally only surfaces when a compulsive gambler hits some form of what is typically called a ‘rock bottom’ which is not always the same for everyone.

Although some people like to gamble occasionally, those who struggle with a compulsive gambling addiction usually progresses from occasional gambling to chronic, habitual gambling. As the gambling progresses, the gambler begins to risk more—both personally and financially, often resulting in more painful personal problems, possibly even financial ruin and criminal behavior to support the gambling addiction. A gambling addiction can take a toll on your finances gradually or immediately, but either way the problem is never just about the money, it is the behavior associated with compulsive gambling.

Gambling Addiction: Symptoms

  • Pathological gambling is indicated by demonstrating five or more of the following symptoms:
  • Spending a lot of time thinking about gambling, such as past experiences or ways to get more money with which to gamble
  • Needing compulsive gambling to reach progressively larger amounts of money to feel excitement
  • Having made many unsuccessful attempts to cut back or quit gambling
  • Feeling restless or irritable when trying to cut back or quit gambling
  • Gambling to escape problems or feelings of sadness or anxiety
  • Gambling larger amounts of money to try to recoup previous losses
  • Lying about the amount of time or money spent on compulsive gambling
  • Committing crimes to get money to gamble
  • Losing a job, relationship, or educational or career opportunity due to compulsive gambling
  • Needing to borrow money to get by due to gambling losses

Gambling Addiction: Treatment Options

Compulsive gambling addiction is a chronic disorder that will only worsen over time, causing more and more problems in the individual’s life if not treated. Treatment for compulsive gambling addictions is available, and as a behavioral health issue there are many key concepts that are used to treat other types of addictions which create effective and lasting recovery.

  • Individual Psychotherapy
  • Group Psychotherapy
  • Support Groups
  • 12 Step Groups

While temporarily giving up compulsive gambling is relatively easy, staying in recovery and making a commitment to permanent a change from gambling addiction can be a truly challenging and unpleasant experience. Maintaining recovery from compulsive gambling and is possible if you surround yourself with the right people, and get the right kind of direction and support system.

Behavioral health issues and impulse-control disorders like compulsive gambling addiction usually go hand in hand with other addictions or compulsions. Often times those who have a gambling addiction can also abuse alcohol and other substances, all to deal with more personal issues. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 

7 Signs You’re Just Substituting Addictions

7 Signs You’re Just Substituting Addictions


Alcohol and drugs are not the only thing people become addicted to. There are other ways that addiction shows up, especially with certain behaviors. An addiction is best described as anything that you obsess about, compulsively do, and that has a negative impact on your life. Those of us in recovery from drug addiction need to be vigilant that our addiction doesn’t turn into another addiction. So here, in no particular order, are 7 signs you’re just substituting addictions.

#1. You go to the gym twice a day, every day

7 Signs You’re Just Substituting Addictions


Of course exercising is healthy. But, it can be detrimental if you are constantly working out. It’s just not healthy. A lot of a good thing isn’t necessarily good for you and, if exercising is merely to keep you from thinking about using then, you’re probably substituting addictions.

#2. You seem to acquire a lot of stuff

7 Signs You’re Just Substituting Addictions


You are a compulsive shopper. Like, seriously. You have an overflowing closet full of clothes and shoes and probably only wear about 15% of your wardrobe. You might also collect lots of furniture, electronics, and anything you might deem ‘collectible.’ Make-up, accessories, watches, jewelry, you-name-it; you’re substituting addictions if you think shopping fills that inner void.

#3. You can’t understand why you’re still broke (even though you’re not buying drugs anymore)

7 Signs You’re Just Substituting Addictions


It’s because you’ve replaced the time it takes getting and using drugs with long days and nights at the casino or on your laptop playing online poker. You get a ‘high’ when you win and, even when you’re ahead, you can’t just walk away. You’re just substituting addictions if you find yourself chasing that high of gambling and winning, especially when you’re in over your head.

#4. You are never alone  

7 Signs You’re Just Substituting Addictions


Like Taylor Swift, you’re a serial dater. In fact, you can’t not be in a relationship. And if it’s not a romantic relationship with which you’re obsessed, then it’s a friendship. You seem to not only want to spend all of your time with that other person, or thinking about that other person but, you need them. It’s like, you don’t know how to just be without defining yourself by some kind of relationship, friendship or otherwise. There’s a name for this; it’s called being codependent and many of us in recovery for addictions also struggle with codependency.

#5. “Who did I sleep with last night?”

7 Signs You’re Just Substituting Addictions


In other words, you leap from sexual partner to partner. You might see it as frivolous fun but, if you find yourself only being able to connect with another human being is with your ‘naughty bits’ well, then you might have a problem with sex addiction. If you look to sex as a way to feel better about yourself, this is a red flag that you are substituting addictions: sex for drugs.

#6. You spend long hours at the office and check work email from home

7 Signs You’re Just Substituting Addictions


You’re married to the office (or whatever line of work you’re in). You prioritize work over your marriage, family, friends, hobbies, etc. People might throw around the term ‘workaholic’ loosely but, it really does exist and, in fact, there’s a 12 step support for people with a work addiction.

#7. You play online games or get stuck in “the ‘book” all night

7 Signs You’re Just Substituting Addictions


Internet addiction is a real thing, especially if you find that the internet is eating up all of your personal time. If your relationships, job, and other interests suffer because you’re spending all of your waking (and sleeping) hours gaming or Facebooking (or Pinteresting or Instagramming), you just might be substituting your drug addiction for an internet addiction.

If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance abuse or other addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

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