Is there a Science to Beating Addiction?

As all of us at Discovery Institute know all too well, addiction is a serious physical and mental condition where the body actually rewires itself to crave and seek to fulfill a need. New research from scholars at Duke University has continued to back this up, and their findings suggest that the science of this phenomenon occurs both in pesky bad habits as well as a deep-seated addiction.

Technical Terminology: The repetition of habits makes them become more permanent through the dorsolateral striatum region of the brain, which processes our sensory-motor signals to another area of the brain known as basal ganglia. These then go through two different pathways, one of which stimulates action, the other of which inhibits it. (These are nicknamed the ‘go’ and ‘stop’ pathways for the same reason, respectively.)

Research Proceedings: As in many other successful research projects, the Duke University students used mice to test out our own addiction-forming habits. Mice were bribed with sugar pellets, which they received after pushing an assigned lever. The lever continually provided the sugar pellets for some time, and then at a set period did not. The mice which continued to press the lever in hopes of receiving a sugar pellet were determined to have formed a habit, while others who did not continue pressing were deemed habit (or addiction) free.

After determining which mice were found to have the addiction or habit for the sugar pills, the researchers then analyzed their brains and noticed that the pathways utilized in these (as described above) were significantly different and that the neuron firings were disordered in the mice which had formed the habitual lever-pressing patterns.

Significance for You: The most significant portion of this research for humans who are currently struggling with addiction came when the scientists started to ‘retrain’ the mice’s brains against their supposedly destructive habit(s). Instead, they trained the mice to receive a treat when they stopped pressing the lever, a rewards system reversal from what they were used to receiving.

The attempted change was not entirely successful but did result in redirecting some of the neurons that were associated with the reward. In these sample mice at least, it does seem to be possible to erase these negative habits they had developed through the previous experimentation.  One possible treatment that this could lend itself towards is that of transcranial magnetic simulation although there is still extensive research to be done regarding the potentially damaging side effects it may induce.

Other Healing Options: While this particular study of mice and sugar pills may not be conclusive, there are several other proven support systems for those who are striving to beat their addiction, including inpatient therapy. Here at Discovery Institute, the New Jersey Detox Treatment Center, we have a variety of very successful programs designed specifically with your needs in mind. For more information about our services and how they can help make a long lasting difference in your life, contact us today at 800-714-2175.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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