Though it runs rampant across the United States, addiction is rarely thought of as “common.” People know of others who have issues of substance abuse, but never believe that it could happen to them. It turns out, though, that addictive behavior is more common than you might believe, and recent studies within neuroscience reveal just how much of an “egalitarian disorder” it really is.
Attentional Biases and Addictive Behavior
Brian Anderson of the psychology department of Texas A&M University has put forth a breakthrough theory that may help to further explain how addictive behaviors take such a strong hold. Though there has been a lot of tossing around of the phrase “addiction doesn’t discriminate,” Anderson’s research really proves that this is true on a biological level.
What he discovered specifically is that “even those without a history of addiction can quickly develop attentional biases that mimic addictive behavior.” The bottom line of what he has theorized is that everyone has the capacity for developing issues of substance abuse no matter their past or family history. The reason for this is that this capacity lies within our chemical makeup, shared across the human experience.
Anderson has suggested that “the broader population,” also known as the people who aren’t currently “drug-dependent,” still has that sort of rewards conditioning as a part of our universal biology. That is, if you indulge in something, including drugs and alcohol, having a positive experience will encourage the person to indulge again on a chemical basis. Over time, these experiences are reinforced within the brain and body, and that’s how (one type of) addiction comes about.
He notes too that this isn’t even a consideration when it comes to drugs that are already so physically addictive that there needn’t be much of a focus on the psychological aspect.
Though the focus here is that addictive behavior triggers can affect anyone, each person also has “person-specific cues” which can create cravings unique to the individual. This diversity makes it harder to adapt medicine and care to the issues, considering that, despite a biological basis for addiction, its forms vary so greatly from one person to another. Just as with the general nature of issues of substance abuse, these triggers entice people with the promise of reward.
Why is this important within Anderson’s findings? Because these person-specific cues are said to be much stronger (and therefore more dangerous) than “substance-specific cues.” It’s the comparison between, for example, a group of friends with whom a person smokes and a cigarette itself. They all share a cognitive process, relating these hazardous activities to pleasure; working to stay sober isn’t just a choice to deny an unhealthy habit, it’s also a choice to deny oneself something that (at least for a time) is pleasurable.
This is all made more difficult, of course, by cravings, triggers, and the threat of relapse. There are countless threats faced by someone who aspires to recovery and with this new theory that everyone has the potential to develop an addictive behavior, it may only prove more difficult in the future. “Drug-related stimuli have the ability to hijack reward-driven neural mechanisms,” effectively inserting themselves into the mental processes of the individual once they are put into the person’s system.
Rewards and reinforcement are both incredibly powerful and should absolutely be considered in studies of addictive behavior going forward. Anderson has put research on the right track for a better understanding of issues of substance abuse: a necessary goal that still seems far out of reach at present. To get help for problems with drug or alcohol that you or a loved one have, get in touch with The Bergand Group. The Bergand Group is Maryland’s leading addiction recovery center and offers support for those struggling with addiction and mental health issues, including medication management strategies. We can help you to work through your addiction in a safe and healthy environment where everyone is committed to your care.
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About The Bergand Group:
At The Bergand Group in Baltimore and Harford County, Maryland, our therapists have more than twenty years of experience in the mental health and addiction fields. Our focus is on providing comprehensive mental health care and appropriate care for addictive disorders. We offer both alcohol rehab and drug rehabilitation. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or substance addiction, there is help available. We also offer several other services, including family therapy and counseling. We can help. Contact us today.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]