Addiction: Those That Get Addicted and Those That Do Not

By | September 24, 2011

brain addiction pornography sexIn recent studies it has been found that during brain imaging research that those that are addicted to drugs like cocaine, heroin and alcohol have fewer dopamine receptors in the brain’s reward channels than those that are non-addicts. Dopamine is a chemical neurotransmitter that is key to pleasure and desire, an experience most individuals seek addicted or not.

Dr. Nora Volkow is the primary researcher who has analyzed compared the responses of those that are addicted to normal controls with an injection of a stimulant. What she found is not only interesting but telling in terms of understanding the brain and science behind who gets addicted and who does not. What she concluded was that controls with high numbers of D2 receptors, a subtype of dopamine receptors, found it aversive, while addicts with low receptor levels found it pleasurable.  So, the take away from her research is that not all brains are the same, in fact when some find it enjoyable others are repulsed! What does  this mean for mental health? It means that the brain is a unique and plastic organ that is not created equally and for some pornography may be extremely arousing while others find it interesting but not that engaging.

Nora’s research suggests that drug addicts and addicts in general, may have a blunted reward systems in the brain. For them they may find that the common everyday pleasures don’t really even reach the level of the reward of drugs or porn. One of the interesting nuggets drawn from the study is that there appears to be an increase in D2 receptors in the brains of those addicted who avoid and refrain from drug use, yet we do not yet fully know if over time they balance out.

As human beings, we are complex creatures. The interaction of our brains (biology) and our relationships (our environment) make use unique and curious. We cannot review and come to understand biology and brains in isolation of our relationships and our experience which has been known to actually shape our brains in childhood and beyond. Just because one is not hard wired biologically to for addiction, we know that those that are exposed to sexual stimuli and drugs can become dependent and addicted despite their chemical makeup.

Treating addiction is a complex process. It’s a process of identifying patterns, intentions, triggers, and motives behind keeping the addiction alive. If you are struggling with addiction to pornography or sexual compulsions you can contact me for an appointment. I have extensive training in relationships and a decades worth of session and past clients I have treated struggling with chemical addictions and/or sexual compulsions.

Reference: http://www.nida.nih.gov/nidahome.html

Copyright: No part of this article in section or full may be reproduced without permission from the author Justin Stum, MS LMFT. The one and only exception is for educational purposes and only if the contact information below for the author is fully cited here in article. Justin Stum, MS LMFT, 640 E 700 S, Suite 103, St. George Utah 84770, 435-574-9193 http://www.justinstum.com


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