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

Emotional Memories: Normal vs. Addicted Brain

The section of the brain that makes and stores emotional memories is called the AMYGDALA. Signals are continually transmitted to the amygdala. They are translated and stored as emotional memories. In the brain of the addicted individual, the supraorgasmic high created by drugs or alcohol creates a "Kodak snapshot" of the moment that is indelibly etched in the amygdala…and the individual is "rewarded" only upon recreation of the Kodak snapshot. Failure to recreate the Kodak snapshot relegates that person to the quicksand.

Research Studies


Rat allowed to drink from alcohol feeder for half-hour – PET Scan while drinking — amygdala "lights up" showing surge of dopamine (the neuro transmitter of pleasure) into amygdala. Several hours later PET Scan shows no dopamine.


Repeat test — only this time when rat drinks, we flash a light and ring a bell. Amygdala "lights up." Several hours later PET Scan shows no dopamine.


Substitute water for alcohol. Flash light and ring bell while rat drinks the water. Amygdala still "lights up" even though there’s no alcohol inducing the pleasure. So how does this relate to addiction? Read on…

What brings on the cravings that drive the addicted individual to repeat addictive behavior?

Unlike in the normal brain, there is no satiation with pleasure. Dopamine levels crash down quickly and stimulate "cravings"…searching for anything to recreate that Kodak snapshot high and stay out of the quicksand.

The Kodak snapshots of euphoric highs etched into the amygdala form emotional memories that are triggered by exposure to "people", "places" or "things." They are the "flashing light" and "ringing bell." It could be getting together with your old drinking buddy that triggers memories of fun, laughter and great times — stimulating cravings for a drink…

It could be listening to a certain album or particular musical group that triggers memories of times when you were drugging… and you suddenly feel a craving for the drug you worshipped at that time of your life...

It could be going to a baby shower and seeing lines of baby powder on the bassinet and you suddenly feel a craving for cocaine again...

It’s not a lack of will power…it’s not a lack of moral courage…it’s neurochemistry…aberrant neurochemistry…


Society does not pass judgment on other brain diseases like Epilepsy, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer's, Stroke… so why should addicted individuals be looked upon as "weak" or "morally inept."


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