I SHOT heroin and cocaine while attending Columbia in the 1980s, sometimes injecting many times a day and leaving scars that are still visible. I kept using, even after I was suspended from school, after I overdosed and even after I was arrested for dealing, despite knowing that this could reduce my chances of staying out of prison.

My parents were devastated: They couldn’t understand what had happened to their “gifted” child who had always excelled academically. They kept hoping I would just somehow stop, even though every time I tried to quit, I relapsed within months.


Sarah CotterillMaia Szalavitz is an American journalist who covers issues such as addiction, drugs, health, science and public policy. She is the author of the book Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction. She has co-authored the books Born for Love and The Boy who was raised as a dog along with Dr Bruce, D. Perry on the subject matter of childhood trauma. She contributes to the New York Times, Psychology Today, TIME.com, VICE and the Scientific American Mind among others.
Editor: Arman Ahmed


There are, speaking broadly, two schools of thought on addiction: The first was that my brain had been chemically “hijacked” by drugs, leaving me no control over a chronic, progressive disease. The second was simply that I was a selfish criminal, with little regard for others, as much of the public still seems to believe. (When it’s our own loved ones who become addicted, we tend to favor the first explanation; when it’s someone else’s, we favor the second.)

We are long overdue for a new perspective — both because our understanding of the neuroscience underlying addiction has changed and because so many existing treatments simply don’t work.

addiction-3

Addiction is indeed a brain problem, but it’s not a degenerative pathology like Alzheimer’s disease or cancer, nor is it evidence of a criminal mind. Instead, it’s a learning disorder, a difference in the wiring of the brain that affects the way we process information about motivation, reward and punishment. And, as with many learning disorders, addictive behavior is shaped by genetic and environmental influences over the course of development.

Scientists have documented the connection between learning processes and addiction for decades. Now, through both animal research and imaging studies, neuroscientists are starting to recognize which brain regions are involved in addiction and how.

Here is a video by Dr Sadaqat in which he talks about the functionality of the brain on drugs
Dr. Sadaqat talks about Functionality of brain during drug addiction

 

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