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Addiction and the Teenage Brain

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1 Addiction and the Teenage Brain
Learning Target: I can explain how addictive substances work in the brain, creating tolerance, dependency and addiction. Do Now: Write one question about addictive substances (tobacco, alcohol, illegal drugs and prescription drug abuse) and/or addiction on the board. We’ll come back to it in the Pair/Share. Lecture: Write at least 2 questions, answers or comments. HW: See last slide.

2 How do addictive substances interact with your brain?
They connect with the pleasure centers of our brains. Many addictive substances raise the levels of dopamine and serotonin, which regulate our feeling of pleasure and well-being. What common mental disorder is connected to lower levels of serotonin?

3 These Addictive Substances Increase Dopamine and/or Serotonin Levels
Heroin, Oxycontin, Vicodin, mimic dopamine Alcohol causes excessive dopamine release Nicotine prevents dopamine breakdown so it sticks around longer Serotonin Amphetamines and Ecstasy cause excessive serotonin release Cocaine prevents Serotonin Re-uptake so it sticks around longer (incidentally so do anti-depressants such as Zoloft, Paxol, etc.)

4 Addictive Substances and the Rewards Pathway
The rewards pathway is activated by pleasurable stimuli. Examples—Sex, love, success, your favorite meal, etc. Addictive substances mimic those experiences. Addictive substances travel from the VTA (Ventral Tegmental Area) to the nucleus accumbens and then up to the prefrontal cortex, affecting each along the way. This is how the prefrontal cortex, which regulates decision-making, gets corrupted—that little voice that tells the addict, “I can have another drink” or “I can quit any time I want to.”

5 Stage 1: Tolerance The brain defends itself against the artificially higher levels of dopamine and serotonin by blocking some neuro-receptors, thus lowering the intake of dopamine and/or serotonin. The next time the addictive substance is taken, a higher dose is required to achieve the same effect.

6 Stage 2: Dependence Neurons adapt to repeated exposure to an addictive substance and start to only function normally in its presence. Dopamine levels fall below normal, leaving a feeling of reduced pleasure from ordinary life. This fuels a psychological need to get high again, just to feel something. When the substance is withdrawn, the body reacts negatively. Withdrawal symptoms can be mild (caffeine), unpleasant (heroin) or even life threatening (severe alcoholism— “The DTs”). The substance becomes necessary to feel normal. Not “high” just “normal.”

7 Stage 3: Addiction Addiction: Continually engaging in a compulsive behavior, even when faced with negative consequences (loss of family, job, etc.). Loss of control over intake of the addictive substance. Can lead to overdoses. Has both physical and psychological components. Culture of addiction. Romanticized, ritualized, slang + world view that draws a line vs. outsiders who don’t get it. An important difference between dependence and addiction: Someone with a painful terminal illness may become physically dependent on pain killers but is unlikely to construct any positive psychological associations with the drug or romanticize and ritualize its use.

8 PAIR/SHARE: Analysis Did your question from the start of class get answered? Do you have any other questions that have come up since then? Share one question with your partner and then speculate together about possible answers. “The Electric Brain makes us happy. All hail the Electric Brain!”

9 A Recovering Addict Thinks About Cocaine
Amygdala activated Amygdala not lit up Front of Brain Back of Brain Nature Video Cocaine Video Even years into a recovery, the mere mention of cocaine or an image of cocaine use can trigger intense cravings on the part of an addict.

10 This first slide shows sections taken from the neocortex of monkeys that were given Ecstasy twice a day for 4 days (control monkeys were given saline). The section on the left, taken from the brain of a control monkey, shows the presence of a lot of serotonin. The middle section shows a section from a monkey two weeks after receiving Ecstasy. The section on the right shows a section from a monkey 7 years after receiving Ecstasy. Although there has been some recovery of serotonin, the brain still has not returned to normal.

11 Is it worth it? The brain is the only organ of your body that cannot be altered or transplanted without significantly changing who you are.

12 In a globalized, highly competitive economy, every neuron counts!
Your brain contains over 100,000,000, 000 neurons, which relay chemical and electric signals to other parts of your brain. Unlike other cells of the body, neurons do not reproduce after birth. We are born with all the neurons we will ever have. On a purely biological level, they are, essentially, who we are. Damaging them or altering how they work lowers our potential and changes who we are, usually not for the better.

13 Addiction is a significant contributor to crime and damages families and individuals
18% of current inmates committed a crime in order to acquire drugs. 68% of local jail inmates were found to be dependent on drugs or alcohol or abusing them. 19% of probationers said they had arguments with their family, friends, spouse, or boyfriend/girlfriend while under the influence of drugs. 25% of jail inmates said they had been in a physical fight while under the influence of drugs. Source: 2002 Department of Justice statistics.

14 Assignment Write 1 page or draw a cartoon (see illustration rubric) summarizing how addiction works in the brain. You can complete this for HW, but you must begin in class.

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