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Philosophy 2044G - Mar. 5.docx

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Philosophy 2043F/G
Louis Charland

Philosophy 2044G Wednesday March 5 Film: The Hijacked Brain (Bill Moyers) • People will sacrifice their family, work, and health for their addiction • They say that it’s not something they wanted – they didn’t grow up wanting to be an addict • If scientists know where the drug craving is in the brain, they can come up with treatments to affect the right cells at the right time o They have done studies where they give someone either a dose of cocaine or a saline solution and taken pictures of their brain • Addiction is a brain disease o But it’s not just a brain disease - also environmental factors, historical factors, the individual’s genetic background, etc… o It’s not any one thing by itself • It is a disease because it is a result of drugs changing the brain in a long-lasting way • People don’t typically have one episode of addiction, they have repeat episodes • Addiction is not a voluntary behaviour – it is a different state • All addictive substances produce changes in dopamine functioning in the same general area of the brain • When we have a pleasurable experience, the brain releases dopamine o Taking a drug produces dopamine, and it is reliable (they can count on taking the drug to make them feel better) o The brain adapts and you will no longer feel ‘okay’ unless you take the drug • The chemicals in drugs fool the brain (they look like natural chemicals found in the brain) to make the brain think they’re good • An addict’s brain is “hijacked” and tells the person that they are unable to function without the drug, so much as their behaviour will change and they don’t think about negative consequences – they just need to get the drug o One woman said that while on drugs, her brain told her to get on a window ledge (she fell and almost died) • The addict suffers from compulsive, uncontrollable drug seeking and use o They feel they don’t have the ability to quit – the drug has control over their life • Like schizophrenia, something has changed in an addict’s brain that changes their behaviour • The drug changes the biochemical processing in the brain o When you stop taking the drug, that change persists (you are still less able to produce dopamine up to 1 year later) o Someone may take cocaine to increase euphoria, but it causes dopamine levels to go down so that you can’t function without it (it is a vicious cycle)  eg. alcoholics drink to relieve stress, but the alcohol produces more stress o You no longer seek out natural pleasures because the drug is driving the system • A non-addict seeks pleasure (like food and sex), but can also regulate that pleasure o An addict gets too much pleasure at one time and the body has to self- regulate • An addict’s cravings can be triggered in the brain by seeing someone taking drugs or an emotional/feeling memory they relate to drugs (seeing a certain street corner, a box where they kept their drugs…) o Emotion evaluates something and gives it significance o Emotional memories are powerful and long-lived because they are associated with survival • Addicts say that the first time they took the drug was the greatest experience, and they keep trying to recapture that experience but they can’t • Even before someone puts the drug in the syringe or puts it in their arm, they begin to feel some of the high of the drug (association learning) o Dopamine is released in anticipation • The majority of people who don’t use drugs don’t become addicted o This applies to alcohol, but also drugs like heroin o Scientists are looking at who is at risk by studying if there are differences in the brain that determine addictive behaviour • Environment has to work together with genes to build the brain – it is the combination of nurture and nature that makes one person more likely to try drugs/get addicted o It is not genes or environment alone, but a combination of the two o The risk of having alcohol dependence is 4x as likely as you have a close relative with alcohol dependence  Children of alcoholics show a lower response to alcohol  Children of alcoholics with a high response to alcohol had a 15% chance of becoming an alcohol
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