Many addicts inherit a brain that has trouble refusing or saying no to drugs. A study conducted at the University of Cambridge in U.K found that cocaine addicts have abnormalities in areas of the brain that are involved in self-control. The part of the brain that is involved in making a decision regarding consuming a drug is the same part that plays a role in other decision making processes, such as stopping one’s car at a red light. Hence, the same brain circuitry appears to be implicated in processes that involve self-control.
Arman Ahmed has completed his MS in Clinical Psychology from Government College University, Lahore. He is also an alumni of Forman Christian College and Aitchison College Lahore. His research work includes experimental studies on concepts of emotion regulation, empathy and threatened egotism. His interests also extend to topics in the sphere of social psychology such as locus of control and superstitions.
Researchers studied 50 pairs of siblings. One member of each pair was a cocaine addict while the other had no history of drug abuse. Researchers studied the brain scan of each participant. These scans indicated that both siblings had brains that were unlike those of typical people.Researchers found that fibers that connect the different parts of the brain were less efficient in both siblings. These fibers connect areas involved in emotion with areas that tell us when to stop doing something. When the fibers aren’t working efficiently, it takes longer for a “stop” message to get through.
These abnormalities in the brain functioning have also been found to predate the drug usage period in such individuals. In a person addicted to drugs this pattern can be expected, but in their siblings the presence of such a brain structure is surprising. It was determined through the research that both siblings took longer than a typical person to respond to a signal telling them to stop performing a task. This was indicative of the fact that they had lesser self-control.
In other words, both the siblings had comparatively lesser self-control. Researchers said that low self-control lead not only towards drug addiction but also a predisposition for developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, compulsive gambling and compulsive eating. It is possible to infer that in people addicted to drugs such as cocaine, self-control is severely impaired. Such individuals continue using drugs despite their apparent negative consequences and lose control over the amount that they consume as well. In doing so, they put their lives at risk and also place others around them in harm’s way. The fact that siblings who were not faced with any drug problems also exhibited a diminished ability for self-control, supported the assertion that such brain abnormalities are inherited.