Drug abuse is a highly stigmatized behavior as many believe that this illness is simply the result of bad decision-making on the part of the patient. If they want to get better, the thinking goes, they should just stop using drugs. This sentiment ignores the critical role that biology plays in reinforcing addictive habits, which may begin as a personal decision but evolve into something much more complicated and difficult for the user to confront.
A recent study by Dr. David Jentsch, graduate students Stephanie Groman and Angelica Morales, and others at UCLA provided further evidence of the power that methamphetamines have to shape brain chemistry and structure in a way that makes overcoming addictions nearly impossible. As described by the National Institute for Drug Abuse, the researchers exposed seven monkeys to doses of methamphetamines for three weeks, testing the effects of the drugs on their ability to change cognitive habits against a control group of seven other individuals who were given a saline injection.
Not surprisingly, the drug dosages had a profound effect on the test subject's ability to perform basic cognitive tasks, despite the promise of a reward to incentivize them. The specific task was designed to test the monkey's ability to change their behavior so that they could quickly shed a learned habit. Examining MRI scans of each subject throughout the experiment, Jentsch and his colleagues found that the exposure to meth had led to a buildup of gray matter in the right putamen, a section of the brain that initiates learned reactions to familiar stimuli. The grey matter prevented other parts of the brain such as the prefrontal cortex from inhibiting these reactions when they are not appropriate.
In other words, the drug caused a change in the monkeys' brain structures that forced them to perform habitual actions despite having an incentive not too. It's important for family members of methamphetamine addicts to apply these findings to the problems that their loved ones face. Meth addiction is incredibly difficult to treat, and the path to recovery will be a slow one.
That's not to say that there isn't hope. Those who are struggling with addiction or have a family member experiencing these problems should consider availing themselves of the dual diagnosis programs offered by Fairwinds Treatment Center in Clearwater, Florida. Our drug treatment programs, created by Dr. M.K. (Khal) El-Yousef, are designed not only to eliminate the addiction, but to address the underlying causes of it such as depression and bipolar disorder. For more information on these programs, please don't hesitate to contact Fairwinds today by calling (727) 449-0300 or (800).226-0301. You can also get in touch with us by sending us an email here.