Addiction begins with exposure to a substance or sensation that gives pleasure to the braiin. The sensation is processed in the hippocampus, the gratification center of the brain.
As the brain continues to be exposed, a feeling of urge takes root when the compound is not present..
Once an urge is satisfied, mental satisfaction follows and intensifies over time.
Feeding the urge produces the classic obsession of addicts. .
The object of that obsession can be a food or a drug. Or it can be a physical activity like sex or violence or an inactivity like social networking.
Exercise is a good addiction. In fact, becoming addicted to exercise is the goal of this website.
Addictions can be to inactive things as well.
Addictions to social networking, video games, music, chatting, gambling and pornography exist. I want to stress the frailty of humans. We are wired to become addicted.
It is a human weakness. It is our need to ease distress.
We can also be programmed to acquire a need, whatever need they want to instill. The altered behavior that this causes is the start of illness.
The mechanisms these drugs and behaviors utilize involve receptor chemistry. The specificities may change but the underlying principles do not.
The salient point is that addiction produces illness.
The triumvirate of nutritional Illnesses (obesity, diabetes and heart disease) are one type of illness that results from addiction.
Addictions are voluntary in the beginning and then take hold of the brain's molecular circuitry causing deep despair when the urge is repressed.
Addictions are behavioral diseases that are preventable or at least correctable.
Physical illnesses that affect the corner addict, weekend druggie or martini warrior use many drugs to manage the pain their life is in.
This is in addition to the mental illness of being an addict.
Nature provided cell membranes with receptors. Receptors are molecular gatekeepers that stud a cell. Their molecualr intelligence provides them with the unique ability to recognize and bind with specific molecules. This capability allows cells to obey the commands from higher up and adapt to a changing environment.
Receptors are the molecular locks that all different kinds of keys can open. These receptors exist for one purpose and one purpose only, to anxiously await a molecular mate or key.
Binding induces a feeling of satisfaction and euphoria, while the lack of a mate produces the feeling of irritability and anxiety. Euphoria returns with an other dose of the addictive substance.
Proper interactions depend on functional molecules (drug, foods or mood molecules) matching properly with its receptor on the outside of the membrane. This model explains the effects drugs as well as hormones, neurotransmitters and growth factors throughout the body, not just the brain. It’s the universal mechanism of biology. The 0s and 1s of Nature.
The creation of new conformations of chemically identical compounds, which the food industry has done with the introduction of trans-fat, high fructose corn syrup and other genetically modified foods, presents unanticipated metabolic consequences for the humans that consume them. Disorders and illnesses appear only after years of exposure.
These foods and the manner in which they are ‘pushed’ are responsible for the increasing unhealthiness of Americans and is the main driving force behind the American epidemic.
Addictions are based on molecular marriages, a kind of chemical intercourse inside the confines of a cell’s membrane.
The binding of one substance, called a ligand, pairing up or binding to its mate or receptor, is the mechanism Nature uses to carry out instructions.
The 0’s and 1’s of biology, the on/off switches of chemistry. The positive and negative spins of life The Yin and Yang of the universe. Whether the receptor is bound or unbound, blocked or unblocked, binding is the yin and yang of the molecular universe.
Bindings or interactions takes place on the surface of a cell, on its membrane or on one its subcellular components. The molecular real estate that receptors control is vital to good health.
Dysfunction or alteration of binding sites causes illness.
Once a receptor becomes bound, it stimulates DNA synthesis of more of its kind. This is the molecular explanation for the phenomena known as tolerance and dependence. Two characteristics, addictive substances are known to possess.
Each individual has their own library of receptors with each tissue having its own limited type. Receptors in blood vessels for example are responsible for regulating cholesterol levels. When they malfunction, atherosclerosis and hypertension occurs. On the other hand, when receptors on muscle and liver cells, which are responsible for regulating sugar levels malfunction, or when the hormone they bind to is malformed, diabetes occurs.
Those in the brain are different. They involve neuropeptides and neurotransmissions and they control homeostasis. Dysfunction here is manifested by anxiety, depression and addiction. Damaged, altered and overstimulated receptors produce disease.
Once receptors are formed, wherever that is, they wait for a ligand to bind with. Receptors embedded in the nerve membranes of addicts remain in an state of agitation until they become bound. The more frequent they become agitated the more powerful the need becomes. They are addicted when they reach a state of perpetual agitation.
When brain receptors are bound or stimulated, they produce what most readers know as euphoria. They become agitated and irritable when they stay unbound.
Depending on the individual’s specific biochemistry, an urge is either reinforced in the brain or buried in its reccesses. Frequent exposure will prevent the urge from ever subsiding.
An addiction develops when there is an overabundance of receptors. Without their ligand to bind with, they remain unbound and in a permanent state of anxiety.
The effect of these ligands to instill euphoria, alter mood and in the case of opiates, dull pain.
Drugs accomplish this by mimicking the structure of the natural pleasure molecule (beta-endorphin), which normally binds to these receptors.
Other ligands produce their effects by prolonging the activity of neurotransmitters (cocaine, amphetamines) or bind to and activate molecular structure known as GABA receptors (alcohol).
Addiction biology is the study of brain pharmacology. Receptor chemistry and the interactions between receptors and drugs explains the effects of drugs. They are the consequence of a ligand binding to a receptor.
Addiction is a chronic process by which steady-state levels of a drug become incorporated into normal biology.
As it progresses, addiction requires the need for greater doses to achieve the same level of experience. This is termed tolerance. Derangement, in the absence of the drug, is known as dependence. Tolerance and dependence are the classical signs of drug addiction.
In addition to tolerance and dependence, every addictive substance produces a characteristic withdrawal syndrome. The severity of the addiction depends on the drug involved and the duration of the addiction.
The symptoms of withdrawal are often opposite to those of the drug. For example, withdrawal from euphoric drugs results in depression and a feeling of hopelessness.
Addiction is based on the interaction between receptors in the brain and small molecules, neuropeptides and neurotransmitters. The large number of different receptors in the brain bind with a library of native ligands to produce the person’s characteristic mood, mentality and drive.
Receptor-ligand binding are Nature’s on/off switches, the 0’s and 1’s of biology,
The coordination of these switches controls brain activity as well as all thoughts, feelings and memories.
Hormones also act via receptors. Through their bindings, the brain is able to regulate the organs involved with reproduction, fluid and mineral balance and metabolism. Receptors determine mood as well as the activity of the immune system.
These interactions including those between the sex and stress hormones, takes place in the hippocampal region of the brain. The hippocampus is involved with memories but also controls brain growth.
Once the brain is developed the only way new growth can ocurr is through the process of neurogenesis (the formation of new pathways). Neurogenesis depends on synaptogenesis and dendritic remodeling. This allows the brain to grow and incorporate new ideas. Neurogenesis is stimulated by exercise and learning and inhibited by chronic stress, inactivity, addictive compounds and lack of learning. This makes up the main cause of senile dementia.
Obesity can be considered a type of addiction and not simply the result of a lack of will power. Obesity needs to be viewed as a psychological problem and treated as chemical imbalance with dietary restraint as one of its tool to reverse the imbalance.
The biological process by all herbs, drugs and foods produce their effects is known as receptor binding. It is based on the molecular marriage between receptor and ligand. This is the universal mechanism of biological activity. The 0’s and 1’s of Nature, The positive and negative spins of life. The Yin and Yang of the universe.
Improper receptor binding is responsible for disease, addiction being one example. Addiction is the substitution of the addicted state for the normal or healthy state.
Addiction is a dependence on natural and unnatural ligands.
The poor become sick because of unhealthy and addictive food, while the insured become addicted to prescription drugs.
The Force of Addiction
Addictive substances are compounds that are structurally similar to natural ligands. These compounds trigger binding in the brain and require gradual increasing amounts to achieve the same effect.
Improper binding by most tissues results in disease, excessive binding in the brain results in addictions. Addictions are due to an increase in receptor formation and the recruitment of those receptors.
In response to initial binding, the neuronal DNA is signaled and instructed to code for more receptors. Receptors, which become exposed on the membrane and remain in their state of heightened anticipation.
Addiction is an overpowering need to use a substance and insure its supply. Addiction is not limited to the use of illegal drugs. Take food for example, consumers disregard the lack of taste and nutrition in fat foods and still choose them. This is because the sensation of fat by the taste receptors in the mouth stimulating the receptors in the brain. These molecular mariages produces the feeling of euphoria.
Alcohol, cocaine, opioids, amphetamines, nicotine, and even the compounds in chocolate, exert their effect by binding to receptors. Once the receptor binds to a ligand, a signal is transmitted to the cell’s DNA enabling the synthesis of more receptors.
Binding of receptors and their respective ligands, promotes the sensation of pleasure, the hardest emotion to resist.
Cigarettes, narcotics, painkillers, mood elevators, tranquilizers, antianxiety and attention deficit drugs, alcohol and the other controlled substance analogs, create their addictions by stimulating an increase in the synthesis of these pleasing or blissful receptors.
The ultimate blissful drug is opium. Called the joy plant in present day Iraq, this plant contains morphine, the unrivaled king of producing euphoria.
The effectiveness of opioids in relieving pain is likewise unrivaled, as is their potential for addiction. Opioid-like drugs, the strongest drugs prescribed to relieve pain, act by binding to a select group of receptors (known as mu) in the brain. Unfortunately those drugs, Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Percocet are extremely addictive. And more unfortunately, is the ease with which they can be obtained. Especially when they are stocked in
There is an alarming increase in teenage abuse of these opioid drugs, courtesy of their parent’s medicine cabinets. Together with the psychostimulants, Adderall and Ritalin, two drugs used to treat attention deficit disorders, a new generation of Americans will develop addictions to drugs.
Brain activity is affected by drugs because they bind to the same receptors as the neurotransmitters that regulate mood, motivation and drive. The more frequent a person is exposed to a substance, an image, a feeling, the more intense the urge becomes.
Receptors become more sensitive to stimuli, the more they are exposed to them. Receptors are also more sensitive when they exist in higher numbers. So much so, that the chemistry of the brain can be significantly altered with just the expectation or thought of gratification.
Fast-food restaurants capitalize on this by serving food that is rich in fat while snack manufacturers embed their products with high fructose corn syrup and genetically modified foods. (GMFs). The signals that are sent from the taste receptors in the mouth are computed via a series of bindings that occur in the brain.
Consumers disregard the lack of taste and nutrition in these foods but choose them because the chemical changes in the brain gives them that same feeling of euphoria, although to a less profound extent, that opiods provide.