The Role Of The Brain In Addiction

Technology has its mighty hand over every field in the world now. And since the base of technology is science, so how could medical sector not undergo changes! Neuroscience has always been an area of immense complexities and curiosities. Advances in this sector has allowed doctors to dig deeper into the brain and even study minutest of changes that happen due to substance intake.

When we talk about addiction as a brain disease, the reward system of the brain plays a very important role.

Physiologically, limbic system is the brain’s reward system. Mesolimbic and mesocortical pathways (Mid-brain) have our cognitive control and functions which would be both reward related and aversion related. Reward related functions are always stronger and more motivating than aversion, hence drug abuse behavior is stronger in addicts. The reward system connects certain structures in such a way that they generate the feeling of pleasure for certain behaviors or stimulus given to the body. In day-to-day life, it is activated by healthy, life-sustaining activities like eating and socializing. But ‘Drug Abuse’ is another behavior that generates euphoria, which is enjoyed by the mind. And human nature is to repeat those actions that give us some definite satisfaction. The limbic system does more than just giving a reward response. For any behavior to be reinforced, it has to be first registered as pleasant to the mind and body. Limbic system in the brain recognizes our positive and negative emotions, which very well explains, how our body and mind get dependent on any psychoactive mood altering substance.

However, with recent developments, neurobiology has been able to study how addiction is related to the brain. Researchers and scientists studied the brain’s reaction to different substances and discovered that drug abuse actually alters the chemical makeup of the brain, which is what causes addiction and they named it as a ‘Brain Disease.’

Since the brain is placed as the epicenter of human activity, it is the initiation point of every phenomenon that occurs. Whatever we feel, experience or think, all is first registered by the brain and within lesser than nanoseconds, it commands us to act. It communicates through neurons, neurotransmitters, receptors and transporters. Yes, it is very complicated and sounds mystical too (specially to people like me who have not studied biology after high school)

How do Drugs Affect the Brain?
Psychoactive substances interrupt with the communication systems of the brain. They interfere with the way a message is transmitted and sent to its defined destination. No matter how much people say that cannabis would not be called a drug, it is a plant, but the reality remains unchanged, which is, that everything has certain chemical composition. For example, Heroin and Marijuana’s chemical structure are like copies of a natural neurotransmitter. Amphetamines mimic catecholamine neurotransmitters, causing general physiological changes which prepare the body for physical activity and fight-or-flight response. So, the moment the body is intoxicated with a drug containing amphetamines or its derivatives, it starts reacting in unnatural ways by raising blood pressure, increased alertness resulting in sleeplessness, blood glucose levels. They can easily activate neurons, giving various directions to the body to react in a different way, than would a natural neurotransmitter would! Cocaine can make a person delirious, because it releases natural neurotransmitters in bulk and blocks the natural recycling process of neurotransmitters by the brain. Amphetamine causes drug tolerance very quickly and rapidly too.

Chronic addictive drug use causes alterations in the process by which information from a gene is used to synthesize a gene product- RNA or Protein. Nigrostriatal Pathway is a dopaminergic pathway that plays an extensive and unavoidable role in addiction. It comprises of Transcription Factor, which is a protein that controls what all information has to go from the DNA to the messenger RNA. Psychoactive substances block, many of the neural and behavioral alterations that are to be taken to the RNA. Altered dopamine transmission is the first thing that comes to notice in cases of drug abuse.

These have been many studies extensively done by medical science researchers on addiction. There is a wide range of chemicals that people use to reach a euphoric state. But the gist of it all is, that they play with the normal functioning of brain by altering the natural chemicals that ought to be there.

How Does the Reward System Work?
Whenever a person happens to do something that takes him to a different state of mind for a while, like reaching the oomph point in a sexually pleasurable activity, treating the taste buds with a new and a very different flavor or winning an excessive amount of money or any other valuable resource that he could use to be really rich, the brain takes it all in the same way. It activates the same gland and releases the same chemical Dopamine, which functions as a neurotransmitter, in all scenarios that seem to be pleasurable or exciting. Similarly, whenever the body receives an antibody that becomes too exciting for it like any drug, chemical or alcohol, the body releases certain amount of dopamine or cuts down its level. It is a problematic scenario is there is too much or too little of dopamine released by the brain. Drugs are addictive because they release up-to 10 times more dopamine than a natural neurotransmitter can! But when the body gets tolerant to the same drug and its amount, it can even cut down its normal release of dopamine!

Know Your Stage of Baldness and Its Recommended Treatment

There are specific stages of male as well as female hair loss and you need to find out what stage of your baldness and then go for a treatment accordingly. In this article, we will cover stages of male hair loss.

Stages of male hair loss and recommended treatment:

Stage 1: Stage one is a normal stage, where there are no visible signs at all, you will only find few hairs fall while combing or washing your hairs.

Treatment: Opt for a high protein diet, give your head scalp a gentle massage every day to improve scalp blood circulation, try to be stress-free

Stage 2: We can say that this is the early stage of baldness, and if you reached this stage, you need to consider taking advice from an expert doctor. You will see a deep loss of hair on top of your head.

Treatment: In this stage, doctor will suggest you a combination of treatment including, derma rolling for improving scalp absorption with Minoxidil and laser hair therapy.

Stage 3: You are just in the stage of acute hair loss or baldness stage. In this stage, you will see a thin line of hair loss area going from one side of your front forehead to the other side creating a bridge like structure; at times the hair loss area Is visible from the top of your head.

Treatment: At this stage, surgeons will suggest to have hair grafts, no more than 3000 to 4000 grafts to cover the area and will advise applying Minoxidil or other related supplements to maintain the growth of non affected areas.

Stage 4: If you click a picture of your head from the top side you might see a horseshoe shape formation of the area and further adding to this you will see an increase in the area from sides of the head.

Treatment: At this stage, expert doctor might advise you to go for hair transplantation from the back of your head where hair growth is good.

Stage 5: Only a thin line of hair might be visible on the back or sideways of your head.

Treatment: In this stage, the only methods through which you can restore your hairs are hair bonding or replacement with weaving technique.

Though all the recommended treatment for different hair loss stages may differ from patient to patient, so before opting for a solution it would be best to consult the hair transplant surgeon.

Physical and Psychological Effects of Heroin Abuse

Every day, at least 115 people die from an opioid overdose in the United States of America and around 4-6 percent people dependent on opioids switch to heroin, abused as a cheaper substitute to the prescription drugs. It is an illegal opioid prepared from poppy plant and listed as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). People with dried out prescriptions of painkillers resort to heroin, which is cheaper and easily available. It is smoked, snorted or injected for its euphoric effects.

According to the United Nations, the number of heroin users in the U.S. is the highest in last 20 years. Many drug dealers mix it with fentanyl and other fatal drugs to reduce the cost and increase the potency. Gullible users buy it thinking it’s pure heroin and end up suffering from deadly consequences. Sold in a number of forms, such as solid black chunks, white or brown powder or sticky black substance, heroin is fast in delivering its potent effects. It blocks the brain’s ability to perceive pain by depressing the central nervous system.

As it imitates the brain’s natural process of seeking pleasure, its preliminary experience can lead to tolerance, which slowly transitions to dependence and addiction. With time, more and more quantity of the drug is required to produce the same effects. Eventually, all that users care about is drug acquisition by any means. They isolate themselves from social obligations and personal responsibilities, and prefer to stay alone.

Heroin causes changes in white and gray matter of brain

Recurrent exposure to heroin is not only habit forming; it also starts affecting the white and gray matter of the brain, which in turn, starts affecting the hormonal and neuronal functions of the body. These changes cannot be undone easily. According to the researchers, exposure to heroin might result in the disruption of the brain’s white matter, which connects different regions of the brain with each other and facilitates the transmission of chemical and electrical signals. In the same manner, gray matter located in the regions controlling muscle movements and emotions, hearing, speech, sight, behavior and decision making is also affected by recurrent drug use.

It leads to a disruption in the gray matter volume in the frontal cortex region. This is the area where complicated thinking takes place and information is processed for recollecting and understanding. The disruption in white and gray matter regions of the brain can lead to long-term incongruences in the hormonal and neuronal systems and with repeated intake, the ability to react to stressful situations, make decisions and control behavior decreases.

In addition to short-term physical symptoms, heroin abuse can also lead to long-term health consequences, like increased risk of HIV and other infections due to shared needles, mental health issues like depression and paranoia, reproductive issues like irregular menstrual cycle, and damage to nose tissues due to snorting. Heroin abuse can also lead to troubled relationships, financial problems, legal battles, unemployment and homelessness. Some of the behavioral signs indicating heroin abuse and addiction could be stealing or borrowing money, and hostile or deceptive behavior.

When used in excess and for a longer period, the risk of overdose increases. Some of the overdose effects are depressed heart rate, slowed breathing (condition known as respiratory depression), coma and even death. When the user tries to abruptly stop drug use, it can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms manifested in the form of muscle and bone pain, nausea, agitation, insomnia, and vomiting, drug cravings, cold sweat, diarrhea and fever.

Treatment for drug abuse and mental issues

As heroin withdrawal can be enormously painful, it is sensible to seek treatment under the supervision of a medical professional at a rehab center. Chronic use of any drug requires care from trained and experienced specialists who can diagnose the underlying problem and administer the right recovery plan. The treatment may include detox, medication and behavioral therapies. When a drug user also suffers from a mental illness, it’s called co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. Both the conditions need to be treated simultaneously for complete recovery. Leaving one undiagnosed or untreated can worsen both the problems.