When it comes to substance abuse and drug addiction, there are many myths and a great deal of misinformation that can make getting help difficult. However, there are a number of strange facts about drug addiction that might surprise you; and some that will concern you. In this multi-part article series we’ll examine some of the lesser-known aspects of drug addiction that just might change the way you think about this nationwide epidemic.
Addiction is an Evolutionary Survival Trait
Credible theories postulate that addiction is actually a survival trait that evolved to encourage humans to repeat behaviors that benefit the body in some way. For instance, sex and eating are both behaviors that should be encouraged from a survival standpoint. This is accomplished by associations made in the brain concerning the context and environment when a certain behavior or act is initiated.
As an example, when an early human ate a piece of fruit – a banana, perhaps, that tasted particularly good, the brain is theorized to have made associations about the flavor, the texture, the setting, the time, climate and a number of other data. Later, all or some of these data would cause the brain to recall the association and thereby create a craving or desire in the person to repeat the behavior of eating a banana.
When humans use drugs, this same process takes place. The drugs cause the brain to release “feel good” chemicals into the bloodstream called dopamine; the same chemicals that are released when we engage in other activities that make us feel good, like sex and eating. Unfortunately, the brain creates the same associations, cravings, and dopamine release phenomena when drugs are introduced. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information;
“Human behavior is mediated primarily by dopaminergic and serotonergic systems, both of ancient origins probably evolving before the phylogenetic splits of vertebrates and invertebrates.” “Problematic use of drugs develops into addiction as the brain becomes dependent on the chemical neural homeostatic circuitry altered by the drug.” (1)
What this passage means is that as the brain makes each new association related to the behavior (drug use), neurological pathways are constructed as part of the CNS or Central Nervous System. These neurological pathways are thought to be permanent and will continue to drive cravings and drug use despite even severe consequences. So in a way, addiction is an evolutionary survival trait that backfires in modern society where humans are not equipped to deal with it.
Detox from some Drugs can be Deadly
While relatively rare, many people are not aware that detoxing from some drugs under certain conditions can result in fatal complications. This is especially true in the case of withdrawal from alcohol or a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. The reason for this is because the brain experiences significant stress when it becomes dependent upon a substance for normal functioning and then is suddenly deprived of the substance.
As the brain works to adjust to a central nervous system absent of the substance in question, serious side effects can result as areas of the brain rendered “dormant” by drug use become hyperactive. In some cases this can lead to heart attacks, lung failure and grand mal seizures. This is why drug detox must always take place in a professional medical setting.
Please see part 2 of this article serious to learn more strange facts about addiction. But if you or someone you love is struggling with this disease right now, taking action could literally mean the difference between a life that is destroyed and one that is forever salvaged. Take that action now by calling the number at the top of your screen, day or night. If you don’t do something, who will?
(1) Saah, Tammy The evolutionary origins and significance of drug addiction 06/29/2005 BioMed