Models of Addiction - Biological - Neurological Explanation

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Models of Addiction - Biological Models

Neurological Explanation


- Rewarding experiences trigger the release of dopamine in the brain. This makes us feel good and want the experience again.

- When we smoke the nicotine in the cigarette increases the dopamine (feel good hormone) that is absorbed by the post-synaptic neurone. This is done either by increasing the amount of dopamine being released, or by preventing its reuptake. 

- We feel good because of the increase in dopamine being recieved by our brain, and we unconsciously want that good feeling again.


- Once the dopamine has been removed from the synapses (by reuptake) this good feeling disappears. In order to regain it, the person takes more of the drug (nicotine)

- Chronic exposure to drugs (such as nicotine) eventually results in a reduction in the activity of the reward centre of the brain - In other words, we feel less good when we take the same amount of drug. This is called tolerance, as the body is used to higher amounts of the substance so more of it is needed to have the same effect.

- This generates stress for the individual that is no longer recieving good feelings from the reward centre, at all. Withdrawal symptoms occur here.

- This negative mood state becomes a dominant driving force in craving more of the drug. Now, the user takes the drug in order to avoid the negative feeling, rather than to feel the positive feeling which originally got them hooked.


- Eventually the craving for the drug is more important than any other desire, and allthough they recieve no positive feeling from taking it, they do


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