Biological Research on Addiction 1st Edition

A neurodevelopmental perspective with a focus on youth vulnerability could help advance efforts related to early interventions. To treat addiction, scientists have identified several medications and behavioral therapies—especially when used in combination—that can help people stop using specific substances and prevent relapse. Unfortunately, no medications are yet available to treat addiction to stimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamine, but behavioral therapies can help. They’ve shown that addiction is a long-lasting and complex brain disease, and that current treatments can help people control their addictions.

biological model of addiction

But even for those who’ve successfully quit, there’s always a risk of the addiction returning, which is called relapse. In all cases, professional treatment and a range of recovery supports should be available and accessible to anybody who develops a substance use disorder. People may have strong desires or urges to use the substance even if there are harmful or dangerous consequences. Often people won’t do what they are supposed to do at home, school or work as substance use gets in the way.

Find out how important your biological makeup is to your addictive behaviors.

And when it comes to genetic expressions that would encourage drug and alcohol addiction, one of the most significant impactors is stress. Still, not every biological scenario is as cut and dry as “being born this way.” Many people are born with genetic markers that may not be enough, on their own, to open the door to addiction, but could increase its likelihood when combined with other factors. It all depends on how a gene is “expressed” (i.e., how the specific aspects of its DNA get activated). Other research has pointed to people predisposed to alcohol addiction showcasing fewer, or different, biological signals letting them know that it’s time to stop drinking. And still, other reports have found a link between the tendency to develop alcohol use disorder and the levels of the mood regulator serotonin found or created in the body.

biological model of addiction

Mindfulness meditation and magnetic stimulation of the brain are being assessed for their ability to strengthen brain circuits that have been harmed by addiction. Scientists are also examining the potential of vaccines against nicotine, cocaine, and other drugs, which might prevent the drug from entering the brain. NIH is launching a new nationwide study to learn more about how teen brains are altered by alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and other drugs. Researchers will use brain scans and other tools to assess more than 10,000 youth over a 10-year span. The study will track the links between substance use and brain changes, academic achievement, IQ, thinking skills, and mental health over time. Some people think addiction cannot be a disease because it is caused by the individual’s choice to use substances.

What Exactly Is the Biopsychosocial Model of Addiction?

Factors related to culture, race and ethnicity also warrant consideration in the propensity to develop addictions. Differences in genetic compositions may vary according to race and in part explain differences observed in rates of addictions across racial and ethnic groups [138, 139]. Environmental factors related to differences in acculturation, cultural expectations, socioeconomics, stress exposure and other domains also warrant consideration as these might differ across cultural groups [137, 140].

However, acetylated H3 and H4 histone concentration are already known to increase in the NAC with repetitive exposure to stimulants such as cocaine.73-75 There is considerable ongoing research in the field. But when you’re becoming addicted to a substance, that normal hardwiring of helpful brain processes can begin to work against you. Drugs or alcohol can hijack the pleasure/reward circuits in your brain and hook you into wanting more and more.

Theories and Biological Basis of Addiction

As an extensive review of each of these models is beyond the scope of this manuscript, interested readers are directed to the references cited for additional aspects of each model. Additionally, theories of addiction as related to current neurobiological understandings are reviewed in chapters 2-5 of [34]. This model believes that addiction is a learned behavior that comes from cognitive processes, modeling influences, and genetic and behavioral influences.

These individuals may experience constant hyperarousal, hypervigilance, anxiety, and abuse drugs may be an effective way to regulate these emotional experiences (Felitti et al., 1998). Thus, numerous psychological factors and experiences can increase the risk of changing how one feels (or regulating emotions) via drugs of abuse. The multifaceted disorder needs a multifaceted conceptualization, and we find that in the biopsychosocial How to Choose a Sober House: Tips to Focus on model of addiction (Marlatt & Baer, 1988). Rather than pinpoint the one thing that causes addiction, we now understand that a constellation of factors contributes to a person being more or less at risk for addiction. Importantly, research has revealed that certain biological risk factors increase the odds of addictive outcomes, but not a single factor has been discovered that predicts addiction with certainty.

First, they may relate to important differences in co-occurring disorders whereby addictive behaviors like gambling are more closely linked to depression in girls and women as compared to boys and men, respectively [130, 131]. Second, they suggest that differences exist in biological underpinnings of addictions in women and men, particularly with respect to responses to negative (stress/anxiety) and positive (addiction cue) responses. Third, these findings have treatment implications as interventions like mindfulness-based approaches that target stress reduction might be differentially helpful for women and men with addictions [133].

What is an example of biological model?

Biological models are experimental systems that recreate aspects of human tissue function or disease. For example, certain tumour cell lines may serve as cancer models, and transgenic mice that express human beta-amyloid protein may serve as animal models of Alzheimer's disease.

In this video, Dr. Femke Buisman-Pijlman explains how biological, psychological, and social factors interact to either increase or reduce the risk that a person may develop a drug use disorder. Based upon representative samples of the U.S. youth population in 2011, the lifetime prevalence of addictions to alcohol and illicit drugs has been estimated to be approximately 8% and 2%-3%, respectively. Based upon representative samples of the U.S. adult population in 2011, the 12-month prevalence of alcohol and illicit drug addictions were estimated at roughly 12% and 2%-3% respectively. Behaviorists explain drug use and addiction by emphasizing the way that these behaviors are learned or habitualized. According to social learning theory, which holds that behaviors are learned through imitating and observing others, someone might be peer pressured into trying drugs for the first time. Operant conditioning, which emphasizes repeating behaviors that result in a reward, may explain why an individual would seek out a “high” or the reduction in stress they may get from using a drug.

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are used to examine genetic associations with dependence, addiction, and drug use. These studies employ an unbiased approach to finding genetic associations with specific phenotypes and give equal weight to all regions of DNA, including those with no ostensible relationship to drug metabolism or response. These studies rarely identify genes from proteins previously described via animal-knockout models and candidate-gene analysis. Instead, large percentages of genes involved in processes such as cell adhesion are commonly identified.

The same exact thing can be said of environmental and psychological influences—they ebb and flow as circumstances change. It can change through exposure to drugs, sure, but it is also rewired constantly with new experiences (and the stoppage of drug taking). It’s a reciprocal relationship, whereby your experiences shape your brain function, and your brain function shapes your experiences. But from the biological camp’s perspective, the changes are driven by your biopharmacological processes. Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., serves as the President & CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, the largest private funder of mental health research grants. Dr. Borenstein developed the Emmy-nominated public television program “Healthy Minds,” and serves as host and executive producer of the series.

As such, disentangling the precise contributions to addictions amongst different racial/ethnic groups is both an important and complex undertaking. In addition, investigators are concerned about the effects of exposure during adolescence and early adulthood. All of the evidence suggests that the earlier a person begins using alcohol or other substances, the greater the likelihood of eventually developing a substance use disorder, because of the interaction between exposure and these brain changes at a critical developmental point. Finally, consider the fact that a person’s overall health and development may be affected by poor nutrition, physical trauma or injury, or exposure to diseases that often accompany substance misuse. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are various forms of maltreatment and household dysfunction experienced in childhood.

What are the three major models of addiction?

  • Theories of Addiction.
  • Basic Six.
  • Biological/disease Model. Psychodynamic Model. Moral/spiritual Model. Environmental Model.
  • Biological.
  • Indicates a biological predisposition – neurotransmitter imbalance – brain.
  • dysfunction.
  • Has been linked to the development of: Addiction. Mood disorders.
  • Biological research.

Consistent with this notion, adolescents and young adults as compared to children and older adults have high rates of addictions [11]. As biological studies identify specific brain pathways and chemicals that may underlie specific aspects of addictions and addiction vulnerability [12], the knowledge gained holds significant potential to advance prevention, treatment and policy interventions. Disentangling the influences of chronic and recent effects of specific drugs on brain structure and function in addiction can be complicated. That being said, drugs like cocaine appear to have significant influences on cortical structures, with repeated exposure progressively involving ventral to lateral to dorsal regions of prefrontal cortex [98].


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