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Brain Neurotransmitters and Addiction

September 5th, 2007 · No Comments

Electrical signals in the brain are sent using chemicals called neurotransmitters. All addictive drugs affect the production, release, or elimination of neurotransmitters. The major Neurotransmitters implicated in addiction are noted below.

Serotonin

Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT) is synthesized from dietary tryptophan and its primary function is regulation of sleep and mood. Low levels of serotonin have been associated with mood disorders such as depression.

Medications called specific serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac and Zoloft, increase serotonin levels but can be very dangerous. You should consider taking the essential amino acid trytophan instead. Check with a holistic doctor for advice.

Norepinephrine (NE)

NE’s common function is associated with arousal and alertness. It is synthesized from the essential amino acid tyrosine. The levels of NE fluctuate throughout the day and therefore there are periods when we feel more awake and alert, while at other times we are tired and sleepy.

Certain drugs of abuse, such as stimulants or “uppers”, increase alertness and arousal and cause talkativeness, restlessness, and agitation because of their action on NE systems.

Dopamine

Dopamine release gives us the experience of pleasure and therefore causes us to want to repeat the behaviors necessary to acquire the reward in the future.

It’s interesting that amphetamine and cocaine both increase the amount of dopamine. However, cocaine achieves this action by preventing dopamine reuptake, while amphetamine helps to release more dopamine.

So, these drugs with similar effects produce their actions through entirely different processes. In turn, addiction to the two drugs may call for somewhat different types of addiction treatment.

GABA

Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is synthesized from glutamate (an amino acid) and is found in very high concentrations throughout the brain. It is considered an “inhibitory neurotransmitter”. Because GABA has inhibitory effects on neurons, any drug that increases the actions of GABA will decrease general brain activity and can be considered a “downer” or depressant. Depressants include alcohol, sleeping pills such as Ambien, muscle relaxants such as Valium, and barbiturates such as Secobarbital. Some depressants are very powerful and can cause coma or death.

The Most Addictive Drugs

Different drugs have different effects on the neurotransmitters. For instance, cocaine and methamphetamine are much more addicting than THC (marijuana) because they increase dopamine levels more quickly and to a greater extent.

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Tags: Drugs and Brain Disorders · Street Drugs

Marijuana Use Damages The Brain

June 2nd, 2007 · No Comments

Psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel G. Amen, is a pioneer in scans called brain SPECT imaging. SPECT stands for single photon emission computed tomography and measures blood flow and activity patterns in the brain.

It basically tells three things: areas of the brain that work well, areas of the brain that work too hard and areas of the brain that do not work hard enough.

In studies of patients who had smoked marijuana, Dr. Amen found significant changes in brain activity, especially those who were heavy users. Decreased brain activity was found in the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes.

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Tags: Drugs and Brain Disorders · Marijuana Addiction

SPECT Brain Scans

May 31st, 2007 · No Comments

Standard brain MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans and CAT (computerized axial tomography) scans are anatomical studies, and although they can evaluate what a brain looks like physically, they cannot provide information on how well the brain works.

SPECT is an acronym for “Single Photon Emission Computerized Tomography”, and it is a sophisticated nuclear medicine study that “looks” directly at cerebral blood flow and indirectly at brain activity (for metabolism).

A small amount of radioactive isotope is injected into the patient’s vein, where it runs through the bloodstream and into the brain. The patient then lies on a table for a few minutes while a SPECT “gamma” camera rotates slowly around the head. A supercomputer then reconstructs offline images of brain activity levels.

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Tags: Drugs and Brain Disorders

Amino Acid Therapy – What is it?

May 23rd, 2007 · No Comments

Neurotransmitter Restoration (NTR) is the restoration and re-balancing of normal neurotransmission in the brain through IV amino acids and is one way to overcome a drug addiction. Thousands of people have successfully used this program to beat their addiction.

Drugs, whether prescription drugs (pain pills, antidepressants, stimulants, or benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Valium, Xanax, or Klonopin), alcohol, tobacco, or street drugs (methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, ecstasy, LSD, PCP and others) have something in common: they all overstimulate certain neurotransmitter receptors (nerves) in the brain. This is how they bring about their effects, but it is also how they cause lasting damage that leads to deeper addiction and the inability to handle the stresses of normal life.

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Tags: Drug Addiction Alternative Treatment

The Dry Drunk Syndrome and Hypoglycemia

May 21st, 2007 · No Comments

Dry-drunk is a term used, often disparagingly, by members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and by substance abuse counselors to describe the recovering alcoholic who is no longer drinking but who still demonstrates the same alcoholic behaviors and attitudes.

Studies have shown that up to 90% of alcoholics are hypoglycemic (low blood sugar). According to Joan Mathews Larson, author of Seven Weeks To Sobriety, the dry-drunk symptoms are similar to people with hypoglycemia.  They include:

-irritability
-depression
-aggressiveness
-insomnia
-fatigue
-restlessness
-confusion
-desire to drink
-nervousness

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Tags: Alcohol Addiction · Drug Addiction Alternative Treatment · Sugar Addiction

Get Rid of White Sugar, White Flour, White Rice and . . .

May 18th, 2007 · No Comments

Get rid of white sugar, white flour, white rice, and white oils to help keep your blood sugar under control and maintain a biochemical balance within the brain according to Michael Lesser, M.D., a nutritional psychiatrist and author of The Brain Chemistry Plan. He is one of the pioneers in the development of orthomolecular psychiatry and medicine.

In the book, he divides people into six basic brain types.  Each is described in detail, and precise instruction on how to identify your own type are given, along with information on the foods you should consume (and avoid), and the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and even herbs that in his experience work best for that particular type.

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Tags: Drugs and Brain Disorders · Sugar Addiction

Nicotine and the Brain

May 8th, 2007 · No Comments

When tobacco is smoked, nicotine is absorbed by the lungs and quickly moves into the bloodstream and then reaches the brain within 8 seconds! Nicotine also acts directly on the heart to change heart rate and blood pressure and also on the nerves that control respiration to change breathing patterns.

Nicotine and the Brain

Nicotine activates areas of the brain that are involved in producing pleasurable feelings. Scientists discovered that nicotine raises the levels of a neurotransmitter called dopamine in the parts of the brain that produce feelings of pleasure and reward. Dopamine is the same neurotransmitter that is involved in addictions to other drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Researchers now believe that this change in dopamine may play a key role in all addictions. This may help explain why it is so hard for people to stop smoking.

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Tags: Smoking - Nicotine Addiction

Marijuana Facts

May 7th, 2007 · No Comments

Marijuana is the most frequently used illegal drug in the United States. It is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant. It is called by numerous street names such as pot, herb, weed, grass, boom, Mary Jane, gangster, or chronic. There are also names for different strains or “brands” of marijuana, such as “Texas tea,” “Maui wowie,” and “Chronic.”

Most users roll loose marijuana into a cigarette (called a joint or a nail) or smoke it in a pipe. One well-known type of water pipe is the bong. Some users mix marijuana into foods or use it to brew a tea.

Another method is to slice open a cigar and replace the tobacco with marijuana, making what’s called a blunt. Some blunts include crack cocaine, a combination known by various street names, such as “primos” or “woolies.” Joints and blunts often are dipped in PCP and are called “happy sticks,” “wicky sticks,” or “love boat.” One book of American slang lists more than 200 terms for various kinds of marijuana.

Why do People use Marijuana?

Curiosity and the desire to fit into a social group are common reasons to use the drug. Certainly, youngsters who have already begun to smoke cigarettes and/or use alcohol are at high risk for marijuana use.

Research suggests that the use of alcohol and drugs by other family members plays a strong role in whether children start using drugs. Some young people who take drugs do not get along with their parents. Some have a network of friends who use drugs and urge them to do the same (peer pressure). All aspects of a child’s environment – home, school, neighborhood – help to determine whether the child will try drugs.

Young people who become more heavily involved with marijuana can become dependent, making it difficult for them to quit. Others mention psychological coping as a reason for their use – to deal with anxiety, anger, depression, boredom, and so forth. But marijuana use is not an effective method for coping with life’s problems, and staying high can be a way of simply not dealing with the problems and challenges of growing up.

Health Effects of The Drug

All forms of marijuana are mind-altering and it changes how the brain works. It contains THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active chemical in marijuana. It also contains more than 400 other chemicals. Marijuana’s effects on the user depend on it’s strength or potency, which is related to the amount of THC it contains. The THC content has been increasing since the 1970s.

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Tags: Marijuana Addiction

Inhalant Facts

May 3rd, 2007 · No Comments

Inhalants are volatile substances found in many household products, such as oven cleaners, gasoline, spray paints, and other aerosols. Some people inhale the vapors from these products on purpose.

Why would anyone do this? Because the chemicals in these vapors can change the way the brain works, and those changes can make people feel very happy for a short time.

But inhalants are extremely toxic and can do a great deal of harm.
 

Chemicals Don’t Go Away When You Exhale

Inhalant vapors often contain more than one chemical. Some leave the body quickly, but others are absorbed by fatty tissues in the brain and nervous system and can stay there for a long time.

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Tags: Drugs and Brain Disorders · Street Drugs

Meth and the Brain

May 2nd, 2007 · No Comments

Speed, meth, chalk, crystal, ice, glass. These are all names for the drug methamphetamine. It comes in many different forms and is snorted, swallowed, injected, or smoked. The smokable form is known as “ice” or “crystal,” due to its appearance.

Meth is a powerful street drug. It acts by changing how the brain works. It also speeds up many functions in the body. It has a chemical structure that is similar to another drug called amphetamine. Methamphetamine can cause lots of harmful things, including inability to sleep, paranoia, aggressiveness, and hallucinations.

How Does Methamphetamine Cause its Effects?

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Tags: Drugs and Brain Disorders · Street Drugs