Neurochemistry of Addiction
To better understand the fundamentals of neurochemistry, a good start is at the brain. The brain makes up the central nervous system and is connected to the whole nervous system that runs through the whole body. The central nervous system receives sensory information and controls the body’s response. For example, a pot on a stove would be extremely hot on the hands when the stove is on and would damage the skin.
This sensory information is sent up to the brain to be processed. The brain then controls the body to remove the hand to prevent more damage. All this information travels through neurons. Neurons are nerve cells that are essentially the basic building blocks of the nervous system. They are required to communicate information in both chemical and electrical forms. To process information in the brain, neurons must work together in a circuit-like fashion to function properly. No one nerve cell or neuron can work alone.
Neurochemistry studies how information is passed between the billion of neurons in the brain. Evaluating what happens when someone is addicted to a drug helps to further understand the neurochemistry in the body. Inside a neuron, pores in the cell membrane allow positive and negative ions to pass through into the interior and exterior of the cell. Additional mechanisms are required at synapses to pass signals from one neuron to another. Synapses are the gaps that allow two neurons to pass information back and forth.
Electrical synapses (where electrical signals are transferred directly from neuron to the next) are rarely formed, however, most neurons in the nervous system communicate via these chemical synapses. The electrical activity in a presynaptic neuron occurring at the chemical synapses causes the release of a chemical messenger called a neurotransmitter, which binds to neurotransmitter receptors on a postsynaptic neuron. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that modulate signals between neuron. The neurotransmitter crosses the synaptic gap between neurons to reach another cell.
Neurotransmitters play a major role in everyday life. There can be numerous adverse effects on the body when drugs affect neurotransmitters. For a chemical to be distinguished as a neurotransmitter, the chemical must follow a few guidelines. The chemical must be produced inside the neuron and the neuron must contain the necessary precursor enzymes. There must be enough of the chemical present to actually have an effect on the postsynaptic neuron and the chemical must be released by the presynaptic neuron, and the postsynaptic neuron must contain receptors that the chemical will bind to.
It is unknown exactly how many neurotransmitters are in the body. Some neurochemicals that are considered neurotransmitters are norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. Addiction is involved with the frontal cortex, which is the rationalizing and conscience part of the brain. Addiction and misuse of drugs and alcohol have large effects on neurons and neurotransmitters in the body. According to Oxford Journals, a key neurotransmitter in addiction is dopamine. All drugs of abuse increase dopaminergic function.
Cocaine and amphetamine increase the levels of dopamine in the middle area of the brain to result in the feeling of pleasure. Furthermore, addiction can be described as a complex mixture of brain chemistry, drug chemistry, social interactions and thought processes. Research from Agora Regenerations Clinic Ltd. has presented information about the brain and drug chemistry of addiction. The cycle of addiction can be broken down into four stages known as drug intoxication, drug craving, drug bingeing, and drug withdrawal.
Drug intoxication involves higher extra cellular dopamine concentrations in the limbic and frontal regions of the brain. Memory of the experience with the drug is stored in and around the hippocampal regions of the brain. The craving is then activated in specific areas of the brain so that the good feelings that belong to using that drug are recalled. When drug bingeing (compulsive drug administration) there is a loss of inhibitory processes. Drug withdrawal disrupts the behavioral circuit that was created by frequent use that results in irritability.
Also stated in the research is that the dopamine receptor pathway involves reward circuits in the brain, and thus with decreased receptor availability, a potential for increased risk of addictive behavior ensues. According to the research done at Agora Regeneration Clinics Ltd. , an efficient way to nurse an addict back to proper health can be done by intravenous treatments consisting of a formula of amino acids, minerals and vitamins. The amino acids are the basics in the creation of healthy neurochemicals in the body. The vitamins and minerals assist the amino acids in the process.
This type of treatment helps the addict because it establishes a healthy balance of neurochemistry and reduces withdrawal symptoms as the addict’s body gets better by having the amino acids, vitamins and minerals in place of the damaging drug. Knowledge of how neurotransmitters react to an abuse drug can give researchers great insight to discover more effective ways of repairing an addict’s neurochemical balance in the body. Neurotransmitters are the result of a chemical activity between one neuron in the brain and another neuron. The central nervous system, the brain, consists of many neurons making many neurochemical connections at a time.