Addressing the topic of “Addiction and the Brain” can be likened to a group of people with varying degrees of knowledge and experience, looking through a telescope and trying explain the universe in great detail. Science has come a long way when it comes to understanding the human brain, but we are still only scratching the surface. Our amazing brain still holds out a lot of mysteries as to how exactly it all comes together to function as our source for thinking, feeling and behaving the way we do in our own special way. The exact answers as to why all of us think how we think, and feel how we feel and do what we do, cannot be simply explained alone in terms of just brain chemicals and nueroreceptors, at least not yet. Scientists are making amazing advancements like never before but there is still progress to be made especially when it comes to grasping the way addiction often has many similarities among people, however in many other ways it can often be a uniquely individualized experience from person to person.
To start a broad discussion on addiction and the brain, a good basic understanding is to recognize and acknowledge that addiction impairs one’s ability to effectively reason. What is exactly is reason?
Reason: n. – 1: the power of comprehending, inferring, or thinking especially in orderly rational ways: intelligence 2 -proper exercise of the mind 3 - sanity (Merriam-Webster)
Discussion – Review and discuss the following statements about addiction and impaired reason. Being as open, honest and reasonable as you can be, check off any that may have applied to you at some point:
Getting in trouble with the law multiple times for substance use related offenses but insisting that it was all caused by just “bad luck” or “people out to get me” but nothing at all due to substance use.
Repeated problems and arguments with family or other relationships about using substances yet insisting it is all based on others treating you unfairly or that they are all just being “crazy”
Experimenting over and over with the idea that “I can control this” but repeatedly proving that experiment is a failure by eventually losing control
Trying to convince yourself that “I can stop any time I want to” however that time never seems to come or when it does come it never seems to last.
Repeatedly falling into the “if trap” by convincing yourself that things would change for the better only “if” this or that happened but the “if’s” are all really just excuses or ways to blame other people
Thinking that “this couldn’t happen to me because I’m too smart” when it comes to addiction, when in reality addiction can happen to anyone of any intelligence level.
Getting intoxicated to a level where you lose control of your power of reason and then do something you later regret, only to do it again another time in the future, perhaps even repeatedly
Convincing yourself that “I just use drugs to have a good time or to feel good and that’s it” however in reality the stress from the consequences increasingly competes with the fun or the good feelings
Telling yourself you are fine when deep down you know that your use is compromising you mentally when it comes to your focus, your moods, your motivation, or your ability to handle stress.
Thinking that “I only use because I want too” when evidence shows, it’s not just that you want to use, but it has progressed to where you need to use
What other some other examples of choices you may have made either directly or indirectly because of substance use that could be considered to be unreasonable or just plain bad decisions?
Even if today, being honest, you still feel like you aren’t sure that you want to stop getting high, what other ways has substance use impacted you mentally? (Focus, mood, motivation, concentration, other?)
What if a family member of yours was here what would they say about you for these questions?