Written By: Robert R. Cassman, LPCC
Some people simply can’t understand why a drug addict is a drug addict. Why, after all of the consequences, does the person continue to use drugs? Children are distraught over their mother’s continued meth use. Wives are fed up with their husband’s continued drinking. The answer lies, in part, in the brain.
The brain, when properly stimulated, will activate a reward chemical giving a person a great feeling. This feeling is so strong that it may overtake the need for anything else. In the early 1950’s, scientists discovered just this idea. They tested rats by stimulating the septal area of their brains. The rats would go back for more stimulation instead of sleeping, eating, drinking, taking care of their young, or having sex. Later studies showed that rats and monkeys would starve themselves to death in order to get more cocaine.
Other studies have looked at the effects of drugs on the front part of the brain. The frontal lobe controls emotional regulation and impulsivity. This region of the brain can get damaged or numbed as a result of continued drug use. This, in turn, affects the person’s ability to regulate how they feel, how impulsive they are, and their need for increased drugs simply to feel normal!
These studies have some eerily similar results when compared to everyday drug use. Humans will forgo sleep, food, and even taking care of their own children as a result of their drug use.
We now know that there is a physiological reason why some people get “hooked” on drugs. Drug addicts aren’t simply “junkies.” They are people who have a serious issue, one that has a basis in the brain.