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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: Alcohol and drugs are chemicals that interfere in the communication system. They overstimulate the neurotransmitter dopamine. Instead of a little surge pleasure, they stimulate an excessively high amount of dopamine
Author: Fraser Trevor
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Inside our brain we have neurons, neurotransmitters, receptors and transporters that work as the communication system of the mind and body ...
Inside our brain we have neurons, neurotransmitters, receptors and transporters that work as the communication system of the mind and body and are responsible for all thoughts, feelings and actions. Neurotransmitters are natural chemicals used to convey messages within this system.
Within this network are a variety of pathways. One of the primary pathways involved in this process is the reward pathway, also known as the pleasure pathway or dopamine pathway, and the neurotransmitter used in this pathway is dopamine. It is responsible for stimulating feelings of pleasure that motivate us to engage in behaviors that are necessary for our survival, such as eating, drinking water, nurturing, procreating.
For example, when you eat or have sex, which are both essential activities for survival of the species, the brain releases a little surge of dopamine to make you feel pleasure to reinforce that you will repeat this behavior.
Alcohol and drugs are chemicals that interfere in the communication system. They overstimulate the neurotransmitter dopamine. Instead of a little surge pleasure, they stimulate an excessively high amount of dopamine, which produces the intense feeling of euphoria. The brain is hardwired to repeat activities which ensure survival, so when alcohol or drugs enter the system, the brain is essentially tricked into believing it should keep doing this activity, since the reward pathway is activated.
However, when excessive amounts of dopamine are released the brain says "hey that's too much dopamine," and responds to this excessive stimulation by reducing the number of dopamine receptors and thus more alcohol or drugs are needed to experience the euphoria. This is called tolerance.
Over time as the brain is exposed to overstimulation repeatedly, the neurons can no longer produce the important dopamine as it should and the user becomes dependent on alcohol or drugs to produce dopamine. Alcohol addiction has developed and they now experience withdrawal when the drug is not in their system.
Other important neurotransmitters like serotonin, GABA, and endorphins are also overstimulated by alcohol, become depleted and play an important role in the addiction process and the development of alcoholism as well. Just like dopamine, the brain can stop producing them and become dependent on alcohol for their function.
Next let's look at the definition of a disease. There are a variety of them out there, but here is the most basic that comes to us from Wordnet" -- "An impairment of health or a condition of abnormal functioning"
Here's the definition NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, provides for addiction and remember alcoholism is an addiction.
"Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain - they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting, and can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs.
Addiction is similar to other diseases, such as heart disease. Both disrupt the normal, healthy functioning of the underlying organ, have serious harmful consequences, are preventable, treatable, and if left untreated, can last a lifetime."
So therein, lies the answer to the question of, why is alcoholism a disease. When you look at the process that is occurring in the brain, it seems pretty clear that the alcoholism disease concept is accurate.
However, if you don't like the word disease, perhaps you could think of it as a disorder or malfunctioning. In simpler terms, alcoholism and addiction in general, are the result of some type of imbalance or deficiency of crucial neurotransmitters in the brain.

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