Neurotransmitter In The Reward System

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The term addiction originates from the Latin words for both “bound to” and “enslaved by”; a fitting ideology for those experiencing the symptoms of addiction personally or through a loved one. A number of things, ranging from food, sex, gambling, alcohol, and drugs, can give rise to addiction. Addiction is often times categorized by the excessive and repeated use of something. But addictive substances that give rise to addiction are characterized by two principles: reinforcing stimuli and rewarding outcome. Addiction is a medical condition distinguished by biological and psychological factors that alter the normal circuitry in the brain which regulates our ability to guide our actions to a reward. These biological and psychological factors, …show more content…
In order for these neurons to function properly, there must be a balance of chemical messengers, otherwise known as neurotransmitters. The predominant neurotransmitter in the reward system is dopamine because of its association with and direct effect on the reward system. The probability of a drug or behavior becoming addictive depends on the speed and intensity of the release of dopamine into the reward system (Juarez et al. 2016). Most drugs of abuse increase the activity of dopamine by interacting with dopamine synapses branching to the nucleas accumbens, or indirectly by regulating the activity of neurons in the Ventral Tegmental Area (Purves et al. 2012). Other drugs have a direct affect on the nucleas accumbens neurons to increase their responses to input (Purves et al. 2012). Drugs stimulate dopamine at a much higher amount than natural stimuli do; so, if there is only occasional use of a drug, the brain is able to correct itself and restore to proper balance once the drug is worn off (Juarez et al. 2016). However, if there is excessive drug use, the brain then increases its tolerance to the drug. This makes the reward system much less efficient because in order to achieve that same high, an ample amount of drugs must be taken (Gardner 2011). In severe cases, the drugs are not used for achieving a “high”, but rather to reach a normal state because the body is so accustomed to the drug-driven system (Gardner 2011). Once the normal reward circuit has been “hijacked” or becomes tolerant to the drug, simple and normal pleasures of the past begin to create less and less

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