Guest Blogger: Tyler Jacobson on Neurobiology of Addiction

Let me go on record and say that Tyler submitted a pitch to me well over two months ago.  As many of you know, I'm a procrastinator through and through.  So I thank our guest blogger Tyler Jacobson very much for his patience!  Now, on to brass tacks.  From time to time, we delve a little deeper into the science of addiction here at TSC.  

Without further adieu, here's Tyler...!  

xo, Laura

How a New Neurobiological Study Brings Hope to Those Ready for Sobriety


The idea that addiction exists in the brain as a disease is one that’s been around for decades, but recent studies have found evidence that supports this view.

By locking down the neurological contributors to impulse control habits, faulty decision making, and the like, we can identify exactly what lifestyle choices, habits, and biological processes add up to addiction and help those that want a change.

Ancient Addiction

For centuries addiction has been seen as a bad habit that can simply be beaten out of someone, either through sheer willpower or by punishing the behaviors feeding into the addiction. Where some people have found success with these, the method as a whole has proven to be a total failure as evidenced by the continuously growing number of addicts every year. However, when research follows the brain disease model, it has led to a number of improvements over both the treatment as well as the prevention of addiction.

What is the Disease Model of Addiction?

The disease model of addiction defines addiction as a disease with the following sources of origin:

  • Biological

  • Neurological

  • Genetic, and

  • Environmental

This then places the addiction on things out of the addict’s control, which has rattled the idea of addiction as being a behavior repeated by those with low willpower or no motivation to improve. When an addict relapses, it’s seen as a conscious choice rather than these other factors taking part. As much as this challenges our views of addiction, more and more government institutes are supporting the model.

Teens at Risk

Neurobiological research has shown that when viewed as a disease the onset of it is predominantly during the period of time when someone is going through some of the greatest changes to their brain and chemistry: adolescence. This is the time when prevention techniques are of the most beneficial to stop the addiction before it starts.

When Addiction Prevention Fails

Despite the best attempts, sometimes all attempts at preventing addiction can fail. When this happens, treatment based on evidence and research can go a long way in helping an addict overcome.

Our health care system already has a number of treatments including medication, such as is needed for patients with opioid-use disorders. Naltrexone and Acamprosate have helped with those suffering alcohol-based addictions. These medications help stave off the cravings and allow the brain to heal from the effects of the addiction and constant intoxication.

As research continues to dig into the nature of addiction, more treatments and therapies will develop.

Source: New England Journal of Medicine

Tyler Jacobson is a father, husband, and freelancer, with experience in writing and outreach for parent and organizations that help troubled teen boys. Tyler has offered humor and research backed advice to readers on parenting tactics, problems in education, issues with social media, mental disorders, addiction, and troublesome issues raising teen boys.

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