Written By:Amber Hollingsworth,LPC
For starters, there are 8 neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) can play a role in the process of addiction. They are:
GAMMA-AMINOBUTYRIC ACID (GABA)
The very basic answer to this questions is….
For various reasons individuals can have deficiencies in these naturally occurring neurotransmitters (genetics, trauma, depression, grief/loss, etc..). When this occurs the individual may begin to subconsciously look to balance this deficiency by using drugs and alcohol. Ever heard the term “self-medicating?”
This self-medication often serves as a short term solution. For example, sometimes people drink alcohol to decrease anxiety, numb depression, or to help deal with an unwanted loss or life situation. Alcohol will help to alleviate the unwanted feelings for a short while, but over time the alcohol will compound the problem. It works like this…
A person might drink alcohol because they have a deficiency of GABA (calming chemical). The alcohol will stimulate an increase in GABA (which will temporarily make the person feel better).
HOWEVER… Our brains naturally strive to maintain balance or “set point.” This process is called “homeostasis.”
—–>SCIENCE CLASS FLASHBACK!!!<—–
To counteract the increased GABA and return to homeostasis, the brain will increase production of “Glutamate” (an excitatory chemical).
The more the person drinks, the more glutamate the brain will produce. This glutamate will increase anxiety, restlessness, and discontentment (the very thing the person was trying to fix!)
This is just one example of many, but the overall effect is that your brain will counterbalance the drugs and alcohol you consume.
Not only will you return to the original deficiency (problem), but it will get worse and worse over time, leading the person to use more and more of the substance trying to “fix” the problem.
What we’ve discussed today is only the first part of the larger addiction-neurotransmitter puzzle.
In the struggle against substance abuse, this information can be your best ally, so don’t pass up on this opportunity to change your or your loved one’s life!!!