Misconceptions about Dopamine and a "Cure" for Alcohol and Drug Addiction of Concern to The Recovery Place

April 28, 2011 (PRLEAP.COM) Health News
Research on drug addiction and the dopamine effect on the brain are ongoing and important. The Recovery Place takes an active part in the dissemination of education on new research and treatments, but is concerned that the public holds a grave misconception about this research: that it is about finding a cure for addiction. It isn't about cure at all.

There is no cure for addiction. This is a fact. But there is the great hope for developing better treatments for alcohol and drug addiction, and this is where most research studies on the causes of addiction place their focus. The Recovery Place drug rehab and alcohol treatment center wants the general public to understand that newer and more effective ways to treat those with addictions are the ultimate outcomes of these studies, and are appropriately integrated into the client-centered care that they provide.

What's all this talk about dopamine? What does it have to do with addiction? Dopamine is a naturally released neurotransmitter within the brain that is important for the sensation of pleasure, desire and euphoria. But dopamine also plays critical and fundamental roles in normal brain function, cardiovascular health, kidney function and many hormones. Disruption to the normal way dopamine is released within the body has been linked to many conditions from Parkinson's to schizophrenia.

Cocaine, alcohol and prescription drugs, such as Percocet, cause a sudden rush of dopamine being released. This causes the "high" or sense of euphoria that is felt. Someone taking a narcotic for after-surgery pain views this sensation as a side-effect, and not the primary reason for taking the medication. Recreational users take narcotics to achieve this high for "fun." But addicts no longer have a choice: they need more and more of the drug or alcohol to achieve the same high and to avoid painful withdrawal symptoms. Over time, there are actual permanent changes within the brain, including that of the dopamine effect.

Drug addiction and alcoholism isn't primarily about dopamine's pleasurable side-effects in the body. Why are some people able to have a glass of wine once or twice a week and never tumble over into alcoholism? Why is someone who needed a narcotic medication to control surgical pain, or someone who used marijuana once or twice, not pulled down into the destructive disease of addiction?

The causes of addiction are complicated, and related to genetic and social factors, in addition to the actual changes in the brain that happen over time when drugs or alcohol are used.

Some people have used drugs or alcohol to control other symptoms, such as anxiety or depression, and this use has led to addiction. Some have experienced trauma or can't escape a difficult social or family situation except through the temporary high they get using drugs or alcohol. Others have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. There is no one path to addiction, and no one road to alcoholism.

The Recovery Place feels it is exceedingly important for the general public to understand why addiction is so complicated, and why treatment needs to be fully individualized to the person who is being treated.

About The Recovery Place:

The Recovery Place alcohol and drug addiction treatment program is concerned not only with active treatment and recovery, but also ongoing prevention and education services to the national community.

Each specialized treatment track at The Recovery Place is individualized and client-centered.