(Che)mystery of addiction

We have seen in the earlier post what is addiction in neurological terms. A predictable feeling, a predictable thought and a predictable action – this is the cycle which constitutes addiction. In the whole process the Body is in the driver’s seat or does backseat driving. It is almost like the tail wagging the dog!

In this post, I will try to present the Chemical dimension to addiction. When we view addiction in chemical terms, we will be in a position to appreciate why at all people become addictive in the first place.There is a beautiful book entitled ‘Molecules of Emotion’ by Dr Pert, which describes the association of various emotional states with chemical molecules(these chemicals are technically known as NEUROPEPTIDES). Basic concepts mentioned in this post are taken from this book, but devoid of technical jargon for the sake of simplicity.

We already mentioned briefly about NEURONS and the network of Neurons in our brain in an earlier post. Our brain may be compared with electronic circuits that one finds in a TV set or a PC but it is a lot more complex than that. As in a PC,one will see a variety of networks and connections in the human brain. Just as a computer circuits(hardware)gets activated selectively depending upon the commands one gives through a software , every thought that we think activates selectively a certain network of connections in our brain. Activation here means a Chemical corresponding to a thought is transmitted across the network. (HYPOTHALUMUS is the part of the midbrain which is pretty much like a chemical factory producing a variety of chemicals depending upon our thoughts). For a given thought,let us say, a specific chemical X is produced(It is technically known as a PEPTIDE). It is transmitted to a specific receptor located on the body cell.This in turn triggers hormone generation which gives rise to a desired feeling. This is the mechanism of how a Feeling associated with a thought is experienced by the body.
As I said earlier,every thought, emotion / Feeling is associated with certain chemical molecules. It is important to remember that the chemicals are highly specific with respect to a certain thought and feeling or emotion. Thus if anger is the emotion involved,then a corresponding chemical is generated in the brain.

The question that arises is when does it become an addiction? It has all to do with the so called ‘Feel good factor’. Let us take the case of anger and see how one gets addicted. Assume that some one has made an irritating comment. The conscious brain picks it up and passes on to the midbrain(the subconscious part of the brain)which is responsible for processing the information according to its well set conditioning over a period of time. Let us say that the midbrain is preprogrammed to generate thoughts associated with anger. It is best expressed through the body language of our face. Then a chemical associated with the emotion ‘anger’ is produced by the midbrain and transmitted to the face. This will in turn trigger production of hormones resulting in expression of anger. When this happens repeatedly,the body itself would start demanding the same chemical stimuli at the slightest provocation, which will produce the same predictable experience of anger. The more the body enjoys a certain chemical stimuli,the more it gets addicted to a particular emotion.
Addiction to all other emotions like jealousy,hatred,envy,depression etc may be explained similarly . Yes,even depression is addictive. Don’t we know of some people who have to feel depressed in order to feel good?
This,in a nutshell,is the chemistry of addiction.

In the next couple of posts we will begin to explore how to reverse the whole process of addiction.

Published in: on February 20, 2011 at 10:25 am  Leave a Comment  

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