Not everyone becomes addicted to drugs but some people really struggle with this challenge. When people use drugs, they smoke, inject, snort, or swallow. This can dictate how much drug gets into the brain, how quickly, and how often brain levels of the drug rise and fall. When a person smokes marijuana, the brain levels of cannabis rise and decline faster than if the same amount was eaten in a brownie. The way drugs are used matter because it can lead to a reason why it occurs and how to offer support.
Speed of Drug
Addiction can occur when a drug causes brain changes that lead a person to seek and take drugs compulsively. Researchers tend to focus on the amount of the drug more than how it is taken. Rapid injections can develop a desire to obtain cocaine, for instance. Finding ways to help people with addiction can start with understanding how the drug is taken and how to offer support for someone who is struggling to quit using drugs.
Drugs engage the brain as many researchers have discovered. They look at the reward pathways and circuits of the brain, which also are triggered by food, water, and sex. With a reward, groups of neurons release the neurotransmitter dopamine into areas of the brain like the nucleus accumbens. This is part of the brain’s reward circuit. Dopamine acts as a call to attention and action. It tells something ‘important’ just happened. It helps to pay attention to learn what to do to make it happen again, according to the brain. When cocaine reaches the brain, for instance, it can spike dopamine faster if smoked or injected (rather than snorted). This makes the drug seem more desirable.
Why it Matters
When protecting a loved one from addiction, it can feel like an uphill battle. The brain has protective mechanisms that regulate drug intake to minimize costs and maximize benefits. Manipulating variables in a drug can change how fast drug levels in the brain rise and fall, transforming how drugs affect people. It may also make drugs go from being addictive to being therapeutic. Methadone helps treat heroin addiction. Both drugs activate the brain’s reward circuit but oral methadone produces slowly rising drug levels in the brain, which allows it to act as a medical treatment for heroin addiction. Researchers are studying the possibility of using oral amphetamine to treat cocaine addiction. When taken by mouth, drug levels rise in a slow, stable way. This produces a low level of activity in the brain’s reward center and does not produce the same effect as before. Pharmacokinetics, or how drug use impacts the brain, is key to understanding the use of these drugs in the future to help those with addiction seek help and make a lifelong recovery.
Oceanfront pursues the latest in technology and pharmacology to help people kick the addiction. Our goal is to understand how addiction impacts people’s lives and what best practices to employ in support of their journey of healing. We are located in beautiful Laguna Beach. Call us to find out how we can help you navigate addiction recovery: 888-981-4295