Addicts Have Unique Brains
Even after we have discovered so much about addiction that qualifies it as a disease rather than a flaw in someone’s character, addiction is still stigmatized as something that throw away people suffer from. Many people still have an image in their minds of an addict as a bum or a helpless person who does not contribute to society. This is an outdated, ignorant way of thinking. Addicts are our friends, relatives, coworkers, supervisors and peers. Addiction strikes every demographic equally, with no regard for race, gender, social class or education level. We must eradicate stereotypes of addicts from our collective thinking, but we cannot succeed at this until we appreciate how unique an addict’s thinking is.
What many people do not realize is that addicts are very high functioning people. Most addicts escape into their addiction in part because they are unable to shut their brains off for certain areas of thought. Most addicts are wired to be high functioning people, but when addiction takes hold of them, their impressive energy and dedication is put toward the addiction instead of channeled into a meaningful purpose. An addictive personality is one that can become totally consumed by the object the person is focused on. When that trait is focused on something positive, addictive personalities are highly effective people. When it is focused on addiction, the consequences can be devastating.
Another unique facet of an addict’s brain is its dopamine production. Dopamine is the brain chemical that is released when a person is experiencing pleasure. The average person’s brain releases dopamine so many times per day, where as an addict’s brain releases far less dopamine. Because of this underproduction of dopamine, when an addict encounters a substance or behavior that rewards them with a rush of dopamine, they latch onto it, instantly attracted to something that gives them the pleasure sensations that they struggle to come by naturally.
Knowing this information will increase the respect you have for addicts by realizing that their brains do not function like the average person’s. Addictive personalities can serve functions that the average person cannot serve, so long as they are able to focus their energy and abilities on healthy, worthwhile things.