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A person takes a drug of abuse (ex. alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine), activating the brain circuits essential to survival such as: eating, bonding, and sex. This releases the brain’s endogenous opioids, which activate its pleasure centers and cause a rise in Dopamine, a reward neurotransmitter. The brain remembers this pleasure and wants to repeat it.
As dopamine surges, so do the neurotransmitters: Glutamate (main excitatory) and GABA (main inhibitory). GABA overpowers the Glutamate, causing an imbalance the brain struggles to overcome by releasing more receptors for Glutamate. This corrects the imbalance, but makes more alcohol necessary to reach the same level of intoxication.
Dysregulation results in dysphoria, cravings, more drug seeking behaviors and other attempts to soothe the disturbed limbic system. Eventually the need to obtain and take drugs becomes more important than any other needs, including food and sex.
Abstinence improves brain function, but the brain remains chemically changed and susceptible to anything that triggers the limbic system. This effect can last from days to months.
In 1956, the American Medical Association determined that alcoholism was a disease based on its characteristics described below:
The American Society of Addiction Medicine has since been expanded the definition to include all chemical addictions and reflect the most current research:
“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social, and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”
Corona Virus Update: Due to COVID-19 spread, NMJLAP will be altering the way the legal community can engage with the support groups.
Monday Night Support Group: Every Monday night at 5:30 p.m. Zoom only. Email Pam Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org or Briggs Cheney at BCheney@DSC-LAW.com and you will receive an email back with the Zoom link.
Attend online 12- Step meetings and book clubs; read blogs, write in your journal, and chat with over 20,000 members of this worldwide recovery community. (This is intended as an adjunct and not a replacement for in-person participation in 12-step groups).