Lecture by dr. Lize Weich on 26 June 2012 at Olivae, Worcester

Addiction is a complex, chronic condition with many negative consequences. All drugs affect the reward pathway in the brain through the neurotransmitter dopamine. It hijacks the natural joy mechanism.

Addiction is a complex, chronic condition with many negative consequences.
All drugs affect the reward pathway in the brain through the neurotransmitter dopamine. ,it hijacks the natural joy mechanism.
All experimentation with drugs is voluntary. Addiction is a developmental disease and drugs cause much more harm if used by youth under 21 as the brain is still developing.

The youth do not think about the longterm consequences of drugs and reckon they will not get addicted.
Drugs change brain cells which lead to compulsive drug behaviour.

Phases Of Addiction:

  • Experimentation
  • Controlled Use
  • Reckless Abuse
  • Brain Changes
  • Dependence

Nora Volkow has done brain scans to show the changes caused by drugs.
The receptors in the brain are changed and electrical impulses change to chemical interaction.
Behaviour therefore changes to an obsession with drugs.
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs the bottom line of basic needs is for survival, protection, food, warmth, shelter, hygiene, etc.

For the drug addict drugs become the bottom line of needs and he does not care for basic needs due to the high level of dopamine.
Behaviour becomes compulsive and drugs can not be used socially and in a controlled way.
The dendritic spines on the cortex of the brain change shape because of substances.

Of heroin addicts 25% die of accidental overdose, Genetic inheritance and the environment cause 40% to 60% children to be more vulnerable for addiction.

Drug talk can lead to euphoric recall and relapse.
Because of drugs the normal brain circuits do not function properly.
Many drug addicts can not think rationally and their stress systems are deficient.
They become hypersensitive for any form of stress.
Addiction is conditioned learning and relapses can be caused by sounds, items, habits, routine, money, friends, etc.

There are many factors causing some drug users to become addicted.
A higher dopamine receptor level may protect some against addiction.
Positive, enjoyable activities increase pleasure and feeling good without drugs, like exercise, good food, testifying, helping others, etc.

Nobody starts using drugs with the intention to become addicted.
Addiction happens to some experimental users who ignore the early warning signs of addiction.
Drug addiction becomes a brain disease due to the changes in the brain caused
by the chemicals in drugs, alcohol, nicotine and medication.

There is no cure for the brain disease, but with full abstinance from all kinds of drugs the disease
can be managed and addicts can live happily and successfully.

It is a lifelong disease and addicts can not learn to drink alcohol or use drugs socially.
The changes to the dendrites in the brain are permanent.
Strong willpower can not help the brain to recover.

The decision to abstain, go for treatment, change lifestyle, detoxify under medical supervision, resist temptation and handle cravings can only be made by the substance dependent.
Recovery is much easier if a proper aftercare program is implemented and if a support group is joined.

Summarised by Kobus Pienaar