decisions

Addiction: Changing Reward-Motivated Behavior

addictionAll of us make hundreds, if not thousands of decisions every day of the week. Most decisions are, for the most part, inconsequential. Such as which TV show you decide to watch tonight, or which route you will take on your daily jog. But there are some decisions that we make that can have grave outcomes, especially if you are in recovery for addiction.

Addiction is a mental health disorder that is typified by making decisions that result in actions that are damaging to one’s health. Even when one is aware that their decisions are in fact harmful, the reward or the expectation of some kind of reward (i.e. euphoria) is often enough to counter an alternative choice. Try as one might, breaking the cycle of addiction is extremely difficult and often times requires the assistance of detox and substance use disorder treatment centers. With the right tools and coping skills in place, one can avoid relapse down the road.

Reward-Motivated Behavior

In everyone’s brain there are several organic chemicals that act as neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine and dopamine. When it comes to the latter, dopamine plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. And, it turns out that dopamine, and manipulating the level of dopamine in the brain could actually alter the decisions people make, Salk Institute reports. The findings from a study published in the journal Neuron, could have serious implications in treating people who have difficulty putting a stop to repetitive actions, like addicts and alcoholics.

The researchers say that by measuring the level of dopamine right before a decision, gives them [researcher] the ability to predict the outcome with accuracy, according to the report. In rodent models, the research team was able to alter the animals’ dopamine levels in the brain, using a process called optogenetics. The technique activates or inhibits neurons with light, thus increasing or decreasing dopamine levels, giving researchers the ability to dictate the choices the rodents made. Xin Jin, an assistant professor in Salk’s Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory and the paper’s senior author, said:

“We think that if we could restore the appropriate dopamine dynamics—in Parkinson’s disease, OCD and drug addiction—people might have better control of their behavior. This is an important step in understanding how to accomplish that.”

Breaking the Cycle of Addiction

Addiction is a mental health disorder; one that is progressive in nature. Every bad habit starts with a decision to do something. Such options, overtime move away from the realm of a choice and into the realm of need. Mind altering substances in effect rewire how you process and decide to do things, which is why one can make decisions that you know could be fatal—without having ideations of suicide.

Treating addiction is a process involving both time and hard work in order regain one’s ability to make decisions in one’s best interest. Without making a serious commitment to alter the course of one’s life, utilizing the support of a recovery program, the ends are typically the same. At Synergy Group Services our holistic treatment program is designed to draw from many evidence based therapeutic processes giving each individual access to the modalities that will be most effective for them. Blending evidence-based practices addresses the entire person, including their mind, body, and spirit.

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