The Pursuit of Pleasure:
The Normal Versus Addicted Brain
Experiencing a pleasurable event (e.g., orgasm) results in a large spike in the dopamine level in the brain... with a quick return to normal level after the event so the body is ready to enjoy another pleasurable event.
Set point is different — "thermostat" is reset. Baseline may be higher or lower than normal. When an individual with an addicted brain has his or her first drug high, the dopamine level rises even higher than during orgasm — the high is even more intense and lasts longer than orgasm…but the dopamine level doesn’t return to the normal baseline. It plunges to 0 — no dopamine – and stays there. We equate this state to being in QUICKSAND — and this is where addicted individuals lead their lives — in quicksand.
In The Quicksand…
If you were in quicksand up to your nose ready to go under, what would you do to avoid going under?
If standing on the bank was a person who has threatened to kill you…and that person threw you a vine wrapped with sharp daggers tied on with rose thorns and dipped in elephant dung, would you grab the vine? You know if you grab that vine you’ll rip open your hands, get an infection, it will hurt and, even if you get to the bank, the person there will probably kill you…
Yet, you still grab the vine. Why? Because the alternative is death. This is the "choice" that the addicted individual faces every day. This vine is their drug or alcohol. Addicted individuals believe that unless they grab that vine, they will die in the quicksand. This is not a choice — this is survival behavior.
Newton’s Third Law of Physics:
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The high transforms into a corresponding low…and with each succeeding drug or alcohol event, the addicted person must use more and more to get less and less of an effect (tolerance) — continues falling further and further until they are using not to get high but just to get normal. With time, will take 75 percent of normal, then 50 percent…"just keep me out of the quicksand" — will do anything to avoid the withdrawal, the misery.