Memory and Addiction
A recent study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience by Washington State University researchers. They indicated that found a mechanism in the brain that enables memory in the process of drug addiction. This is important because the discovery opens a new area of research geared at discovering a therapy that could alter or stop this mechanism in addiction; making drug addiction less addictive.
Turning off the tool that creates these powerful memories will hopefully lessen the impact and content of the memory – thereby decreasing the motivation for relapse and addiction. Memories associated with drug use definitely drive the impulses behind drug addiction. The brain reinforces memories, and in so doing, gives them emotional weight. The result of the memories being reinforced is a perfect list of what guides and directs the basic decisions.
The NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) indicates that the amygdala, a part of the brain’s limbic system, which is critical for memory and responsible for evoking emotions, becomes active and a craving for drugs is triggered when an addicted individual thinks about, sees, or hears about drugs.
They indicate, “This craving demands the drug immediately. Rational thoughts are dismissed by the uncontrollable desire for drugs. At this point, a basic change has occurred in the brain. The person is no longer in control. This changed brain makes it almost impossible for drug addicts to stay drug-free without professional help. Because addiction is a brain disease.”
In the WSU study they found that their processes did not erase the drug memory completely, but perhaps diminished its emotional power. Hopefully, Learning how to hone in on emotional strength in memories and what allows for them will hopefully, ultimately, lead to information that can allow for control over these memories. This type of finding could help end the vicious cycles of drug abuse and addiction.
Sources: sciencedaily.com, wsu.edu, nida.gov