Daily Archives: 12/10/2014

The disease model of addiction and dependence




Thanks to MallardsForUs who shared this presentation with us on her blog first.  She shared it to talk about chronic stress and the dopamine system but for me it was a fantastic study into the disease model of addiction and dependence.  He cites research and evidence which shows categorically that it is not a moral weakness or personal failing as that would be controlled by our higher brain in the frontal cortex.  It is a midbrain response which is our flight or fight limbic brain (which also ties in with the flipping your lid post a few days ago!).  As a nurse who has worked with alcohol dependent patients and as a psychology graduate his presentation nails it – completely.

It is so good and I have talked about it with so many people who haven’t seen it that I’m sharing it again here along with her description of it as it also so good!

A fantastic and insightful lecture was posted in the bfb facebook group this week by Dr. Kevin Mccauley. Brilliant. Completely brilliant. What enticed me the most was his discussion in the second half of the lecture in which he discusses the part of the brain that is affected by drugs, the midbrain. This, he describes as the part of the brain that seeks survival. He discusses the IMMENSE contributor in the development of an addiction: STRESS. Seems simple, but when you hear him discuss it, it all comes together. This is chronic, debilitating stress over time. He describes stress affecting the midbrain which then kicks in the threat of survival, the desperate need to relieve this stress. This stress, he explains, “breaks” our dopamine system, the system that allows us to feel pleasure. The chronic stress sets new thresholds, higher thresholds, for experiencing and feeling pleasure through our environment. Our ability to perceive pleasure becomes broken. So, we begin to notice the things that can break this new high pleasure threshold…what does that for us: Drugs. Alcohol. 

We take a drink, and at some point in our lives when stress has already broken this dopamine threshold, this drink is now “tagged” in the brain as THE answer to any stress or ill feeling- our survival mechanism- the only thing that has been shown to achieve relief and pleasure. He describes addiction in one sense, as the “stress induced defect in the brain’s ability to properly perceive pleasure.”

Amazing presentation and well worth your time 🙂  Thanks again Mallards!