Communication network – billions of nerve cells interconnected 1. Neurons (nerve cells that send and receive messages) 2. Neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that help to send messages) 3. Receptors (allow neurotransmitters to send messages correctly) 4. Transporters (recycle transmitters and shut off connection between neurons)
To send a message, a brain cell releases a chemical (neurotransmitter) into the space separating two cells, called the synapse. The neurotransmitter crosses the synapse and attaches to proteins (receptors) on the receiving brain cell. This causes changes in the receiving brain cell, and the message is delivered.
Chemicals – tap into communication system and interfere with nerve cells Different drugs work differently All drugs of abuse (nicotine, cocaine, marijuana, narcotics, etc.) affect the brain’s “reward” circuit – part of limbic system
Normal reward circuit Responds to pleasurable experiences Neurotransmitter = dopamine Drugs hijack this system Causes unusual amounts of dopamine to flood the system Can last longer when compared to what happens through a natural/normal reward stimulates dopamine Flood of dopamine = “high” or euphoria with drug abuse
Think about how you feel when something good happens… Limbic system at work Natural pleasures in lives are necessary for survival Limbic system drives you to seek out those things
1 st time drug user Unnaturally intense feelings of pleasure Reward circuit activated – dopamine release Brain starts changing Neurons sense more than enough dopamine Reduce number of dopamine receptors or make less dopamine Neurons die off from toxicity of drugs
Results Dopamine’s ability to cause pleasure is severely weakened Person feels flat, lifeless, depressed Person needs drugs now just to bring dopamine levels up to normal Large amounts of drug needed to create dopamine flood or “high” Effect known as “tolerance”
Brain changes Drive person to seek out and use drugs compulsively, despite negative consequences AKA = Addiction
Starts out as voluntary As drug use continues, it goes from voluntary use to compulsive use Why? Changes in how the brain functions Impairs ability to think clearly, feel okay without drugs, and to control your behaviors
Addiction is treatable, but often a chronic disease People can learn to manage their disease Medications Behavior-based therapies Vary from person to person Long-term treatment is often needed Setbacks are likely
Questions to assess whether or not a person has a drug problem: 1. Have you ever ridden in a car driven by someone (including yourself) who had been using alcohol or drugs? 2. Do you ever use alcohol or drugs to relax, to feel better about yourself, or to fit in? 3. Do you ever use alcohol or drugs when you are alone? 4. Do you ever forget things you did while using alcohol or drugs? 5. Do family or friends ever tell you to cut down on your use of alcohol or drugs? 6. Have you ever gotten into trouble while you were using alcohol or drugs?
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