Addiction and Reward Pathways in the Brain

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People who suffer from addictions give many different reasons and excuses for their behavior. They often hide their addictions from others, and they feel ashamed and embarrassed for their ‘weakness.’ In reality, they’re responding to the reward pathways in their brain. They have trouble controlling it, even when they know they need to. They’re afraid to get help, in a lot of cases, because they don’t want to lose the way the addictive substance makes them feel. If the reward pathways in the brain didn’t respond to the addiction, the addict would lose interest in that particular addiction. The key to stopping an addictive behavior is to remove the reward that it provides, and there are several ways in which this can be done.

Medication is used to block the receptors that signal pleasure from a particular substance or behavior. It’s one way of ensuring that the person isn’t getting a ‘high’ from what he or she is doing – but it’s not the only way. There are other methods, such as hypnotherapy, that can also produce good results. People often become what they believe most strongly and what they’ve been conditioned to think about themselves. If they think differently, it stands to reason they will also act differently, and this is where hypnosis comes into the equation. Someone who is convinced in his or her mind that there is no longer any pleasure in an addiction will take no pleasure from that addiction. The brain will actually be ‘retrained’ in such a way that the reward pathways will not respond to the addictive substance anymore.

This doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s certainly possible with work and dedication, because the brain is an amazing organ. It powers much of what a person does, but what that person does also powers much of what the brain thinks and feels – and how it responds to the person’s surroundings. Blocking the pleasure that a person gets from addiction will rewire the reward pathways in the brain. For example, instead of taking pleasure from drinking, the man will take pleasure from spending time playing with his children, and that will trigger the reward pathway in his brain. It’s possible to create this kind of retraining and reorganization of the reward pathways in the brain when it comes to addiction, and it’s well worth doing. Help, hope, and support are all available for any addict who wants to change his or her life for the better.

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