A new study by Krishna Patel of the Living Institute suggests that people who have abstained from drug addiction for a long time do not see a complete normalisation of their brain activity. This suggests that these individuals may have had differences in their brain before they began using drugs, which made them more prone to addiction. It also adds support to the idea that once people have been addicted to a substance they can never use it safely again.
Research into Drug Addiction by the Institute of Living
There has been a great deal of debate into the changes in the brain of those that have become addicted to drugs. Are these changes a result of the drug addiction or were they already present before the addiction occurred? The research by the Living Institute attempts to answer this question.
The study led by Krishna Patel focuses on the neural responses of three groups of people while performing a simple task. One group still uses cocaine, one group included individuals who had been abstinent from cocaine abuse for four years, and one group was a control (those who have never used cocaine). The study found that those who were abstinent showed improvements to neural responses when compared to the active users, but there were still ways in which their responses were similar. This would imply that abstaining from cocaine for a long time did not lead to a full recovery of their brain. It further suggests that the reason these factors did not change is that they have always been there.
The work by the Living Institute is certainly intriguing, but it is not enough to solve the ‘chicken or egg’ problem when it comes to changes to the brain. There could be other reasons why individuals fail to fully recover their neural functioning after they have abstained for four years. Hopefully there will be further studies into this fascinating area of addiction.
Are People Born to be Addicted
The idea that some are more prone to addiction than others is certainly not new. There have been many theories suggesting that some people are genetically predisposed to this type of behaviour. This new research further emphasises the idea that some individuals may be born with a neural setup that just makes them more likely to fall into addictive behaviour.
The fact that some people have a brain that makes them more likely to develop addiction problems does not mean they necessarily will develop this type of problem. It only seems to be when these individuals begin abusing alcohol or drugs they are going to be at much higher risk. This could also explain why some individuals seem to get away with this type of behaviour – at least for a while anyway. Of course, it is going to be much better for those with a higher risk of addiction to never try alcohol or drugs; the problem, though, is identifying who they are.
No Safe Return to Drug Use
The one thing that seems almost certain is that those who have been abusing drugs are never going to be safe to return to these substances. If the changes to their brain are permanent, it means that this individual will automatically slip back into their old habits. It is as if their addiction is just a sleeping beast in their brain that is waiting to wake up again. So long as the individual remains abstinent, they are going to be safe; these changes are not going to have too much of an impact on their life.