How Society Pays
The Neurochemistry of Addiction


Emotional Memories


Role of Genetics

Disease of Addiction

Addiction: A Genetic Disease
Female Issues
Treatment for Addiction
Relapse: Sex, Love, and Relationships
Addiction and the Family

Normal Brain versus the Addicted Brain: The Difference

The Normal Brain:

Child touches hot stove — painful sensation transmitted to brain — brain transmits message to muscles to pull away instantly — memory indelibly etched in brain to avoid doing that again. Negative reinforcement for a negative event — this is an appropriate message.

Untreated diabetic experiencing lethargy, blurred vision, constant hunger, thirst and frequent urination receives first shot of insulin — negative symptoms go away — feels great, feels "normal" — message transmitted that this would be a good activity to repeat — positive reinforcement for a positive event — this is an appropriate message.

These messages to and from the brain are mediated by chemicals — called NEUROTRANSMITTERS. They include:

  • Dopamine
  • Serotonin
  • Glutamate
  • Norepinephrine
  • GABA
  • Corticosteroids

These chemicals help regulate various systems of the body that affect emotions and behavior — e.g., pleasure, pain, depression, etc.

For the purpose of simplicity, we will focus on one neurotransmitter that research shows plays an important part in addiction — DOPAMINE — the neurotransmitter that mediates pleasure.

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