Addiction and the Brain

What sets humans apart from “lesser” animals is our powerful brain. The survival mechanisms that have given us such success as a species can be harnessed to cause our destruction.

The brain rewards positive behavior by releasing chemicals into the bloodstream that interact with the brain causing a pleasant sensation. This is important to reinforce behavior such as eating when we are hungry, or getting warm when we are cold. These are behaviors that ensure the survival of the species, and are therefore primary motivating factors in our behavior. Members of the species that closely follow those releases of “pleasant” chemicals would have a higher survival rate than those that did not engage in behaviors that caused this release.

Now imagine a substance that causes that same release of pleasing chemicals to the brain that effect primary survival behavior. This chemical would skip past the positive survival behavior, and just stimulate the same pleasing chemicals in the brain. The urge to follow that chemical would be as strong as any “positive” survival behavior. This is a dangerous situation since this chemical could possibly block out the original survival behaviors.

Nicotine is that chemical.

quit smokingEveryone knows about the damaging long-term health effects of smoking cigarettes and using chewing tobacco. Still, a large percent of smokers are unable to quit. Many smokers are unable to quit despite claiming a strong desire to quit. It baffles the smoker, as well as the health providers that constantly counsel their patients to stop this deadly habit.

What most smokers don’t understand is the depth to which smoking affects their brain. Eating food when one is hungry is a “primary survival behavior”. Yet, when we eat, our brain does not always acknowledge this release of pleasing chemicals. With nicotine, on the other hand, our brain observes this chemical release every time. As described above, our brain is “hardwired” over many generations to follow the pleasant feelings caused by these chemicals. Consequently, the brain strongly follows the chemical release elicited by nicotine.

Laser acupuncture treatment for quitting smoking employs a therapy that causes the same release of chemicals in the brain as nicotine. This allows a person to quit with much less pain and discomfort than without this treatment.
And this is especially true in Colorado!