A new research study shows that addiction is caused when the brain attempts to over correct, and this process is somewhat like when a driver makes an over correction while driving. Substance abuse causes the pleasure system of the brain to become flooded with excessive amounts of dopamine. According to Brigham University scientists this flood of dopamine causes oxidative stress in the brain. Scott Steffensen, Ph.D., one of the researchers involved in the research study, stated “Addiction is a brain disease that could be treated like any other disease. I wouldn’t be as motivated to do this research, or as passionate about the work, if I didn’t think a cure was possible.” Steffensen went on to say “The body attempts to compensate for unnatural levels of dopamine, but a pathological process occurs. We think it all centers around a subset of neurons that ordinarily put the brakes on dopamine release.”
The research study shows that substance abuse changes the way that the brain functions. During the study the brain response was monitored, and when substance abuse is engaged in the brain generates a protein, brain derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF. This protein helps correct for the excess dopamine by inhibiting the natural production of dopamine in the brain. The effects of BDNF will last longer than the substance being abused, and this leads to the emotional and physical symptoms of withdrawal. Eventually addiction may be a curable condition, and research studies like this one can help develop substance abuse treatment that is more effective.