When the drug impersonates the brain's natural stimuli, causing it to release dopamine, the brain - as is the case with methamphetamine use - will eventually recognize what is happening, in a sense, and will respond to the artificial stimuli by shutting down its dopamine releasing mechanisms (Ling, 2006, documentary film).
The Grips of Addiction
Like Mark's mice, the drug addict will always have a response to the precipitators in their life, like stress, of seeking to ease their stress, pain, or psychological illness by wiping that precipitator out of their body or mind, and will always at least think of their drug of choice as the relief for those conditions.
That is because, Changeux says, the drugs actually target the neurotransmitter receptors (p. 145). And more recent studies have yielded new insight into the chemically complex relationship between artificially introduced drugs and the way in which the body, the brain, manufactures its chemicals naturally.
Chemical investigations now reveal the fine structure of the drug target site at nearly the atomic level. The five subunits that compose the molecule may differ. Two of them, called alphas, were shown by Arthur Karlin from Columbia University to bear the primary responsibility for recognizing acetylcholine or nicotine. Recent work indicates that the drug binding pocket in fact lies at the boundary between an alpha and a nonalpha subunit. There, nicotine, acetylcholine, or even the antagonist curare are firmly captured by at least five (and possibly six) "fingers" that, as anticipated by Paul Ehrlich at the end of the nineteenth century, establish weak though multiple chemical bonds with the drug (p. 145)."
Regardless of whether or not the motivation for an individual's drug pattern of use that results in addiction is social, psychological, or genetic; once the brain has been introduced to the artificial substance to achieve the addict's euphoria, it creates a relationship that once the brain is involved, tends to involve all of the responses to social, psychological and physiological natural reactions towards the resumed use of the illicit and artificial chemical. In other words, the brain becomes co-conspirator in the pattern of drug seeking, causing all of the human physiology to direct its cravings towards the resumed drug use.
In Lisa Ling's (2006),documentary, the Most Dangerous Drug in the World, authorities in Oregon where the documentary was shot said that, in Oregon, 85% of property theft and identification theft was the result of methamphetamine addiction. Bret King, a law enforcement official interviewed in the film said that one in four inmates test positive for methamphetamine (2006). Methamphetamine is a drug that is, for now, the drug of choice among many drug users today because it provides a high that lasts up to six hours, as compared with the high of 30 minutes to an hour gained by cocaine use (2006). Also, Ling's documentary showed, it is the cheapest and easiest drug for the ordinary person to manufacture, using chemical and equipment that can be easily obtained in grocery stores and drug stores; like drain cleaning products, cough medicines, and other products found in most stores (2006).
Methamphetamine is, too, elicits one of the strongest reactions in the brain as pertains to the brain's creation and release of dopamine (Ling, 2006). However, the side affects of methamphetamine addiction is perhaps the most tragic and horrifying of any other drug. The methamphetamine user will begin to experience physical reactions to the poisonous compounds used to manufacture methamphetamines, and their skin will begin to rapidly show their addiction by an accelerated aging process in the texture of the skin (Ling, 2006). The psychological trickster of the drug works to cause the user to believe that they have crawling bugs on their body, and the user will begin to dig holes in their skin to get at the microscopic creates they believe reside beneath the surface of their skin (Ling, 2006). The drug works on the teeth, eating the protective coating of the teeth away, then there follows deterioration and rotting of the teeth to the roots, resulting in tooth loss and deformities of the jaw (Ling, 2006). Amidst these problems, the addict must pursue the compulsion to use by way of injection, snorting, or smoking more drugs to keep the flow of dopamine being made by the brain (Ling, 2006).
The addict's life is one consumed with satisfying the need to maintain the euphoria that the brain has caused the person to become accustomed to, to desire. Family, social, employment, and all other aspects of an individual's life tend to be overcome by the individual's need to satisfy their addiction (Ammerman, R.T., Ott, P., and Tarter, R.E., 1999).
The reversal of drug seeking behavior, or drug addiction, is one that is equally consuming of the individual's life, because it requires the drug addict's total concentration, obedience, commitment, and awareness of their precipitators and behaviors associated with drug seeking and addiction (Ammerman, et al., 1999). It becomes a life-changing, but also a life-long process that the former addict can never walk away from.
Researcher John C. Crabbe says this about addiction:
Addiction is a lay term, so everyone assumes he or she knows what it means. However, serious discussions of the basis for the motivational dysregulation of behavior that is its core feature must navigate between languages seeking to describe physiological/pharmacological sources of influence and those focused on intrapsychic events whose basis is unspecified. An interesting review of the field that evaluated this distinction forthrightly concluded that both orientations contribute to our understanding of addiction, and that both structural frameworks can offer predictive value (Davies 1998) (Crabbe, 2002, p. 435)."
Sheila M. Strauss and Gregory P. Falkin (2001) say that drug use among women leading to addiction has increased over the decade (p. 241). This is, of course, a frightening fact because of the repercussions it has to society: children being raised by addicts, or, equally as bad, children being raised by surrogates or foster care because their mother is imprisoned for drug related crimes.
Of equal concern is illicit drug use by persons already suffering from mental health issues, like schizophrenia, whose mixing prescribed medications with drugs like methamphetamines only serve to exacerbate their psychosis, and to put at risk their treatment, and even create dangerous social conditions for those people who come in contact with the schizophrenic (Scheller-Gilkey, Woolwine, B., J., Cooper, I., Kelly a., O.Gay, and Moynes, K.A., Miller, a.H., 2003, p. 553).
Drug abuse and addiction is a problem that each of us must be concerned about, and we must be equally concerned about helping to ensure that programs where addicts have access to community-based programs continue. A commitment to treatment is really the only solution, and then to remain abstinent in illegal drug use. The path which people are now following, especially as arises out of methamphetamine use, is dangerous, deadly and socially destructive. Ways must be found to offer peer counseling to young people who feel pressured into using drugs, such as the young college student and her boyfriend, shown in Ling's documentary, who, on their first-time use of methamphetamines, were so psychologically disoriented and confused, that they left the warmth and safety of their vehicle and ventured into the blizzard conditions of a rural area where they died of exposure to the extreme cold (Ling, 2006). These kinds of tragic deaths can be avoided, and require the awareness of everyone in the community to discourage and offer empathetic support in helping young people and addicts overcome the pressures to use illicit drugs.
The good news is that today there is a social focus on good health, and illicit drug use does not come into that philosophy. People are focused on meditation to achieve an overall sense of euphoria and well being, and this does not interfere with or impact families, employers, or neighbors in a negative way. The use of tobacco is frowned upon, even illegal in many public places. Unfortunately, we do not see this seem concentrated effort to limit and cease the use of alcohol, but there are concentrated efforts to make the use of alcohol safer. This, however, does nothing to resolve the hierarchal patter leading to drug use and abuse.
It is up to society to acknowledge and be aware of the destructive forces of addiction, and to respond to those forces with actions and limits that prevent people from being compelled to use illicit drugs.
Ammerman, R.T., Ott, P.J., & Tarter, R.E. (Eds.). (1999). Prevention and Societal Impact of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Retrieved February 28, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=57300683
Changeux, J. (1998). Drug Use and Abuse. Daedalus, 127(2), 145+. Retrieved February 28, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5001347452
Crabbe, J.C. (2002). Genetic Contributions to Addiction. 435+. Retrieved February 28, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5000597893
Degrandpre, R., & Bickel, W.K. (1993). Stimulus Control and Drug Dependence. The Psychological Record, 43(4), 650+. Retrieved February 28,…