There long has been debate over the topic of self-control when it comes to addiction. Many theories have been tossed around. However, in a recent study led by the University of Cambridge, it was found that the cocaine-addicted brain may not be able to control impulses because of a recently discovered ‘back door’ into the brain that produces compulsive thoughts caused by drug use.
Cocaine is notoriously difficult to quit with high rates of relapse. In those who do relapse, four in 10 do so because they have a craving for the drug. For the others, the reasons were previously not totally clear.
Shocking Results In Study On Self-Control In Addicts
What the researchers discovered was that over time, drug use becomes something beyond the control of an addict. In lab rats, a portion of their brain, which plays an important role in goal-directed behavior changed with ongoing drug use. Over time, another part of the brain became impacted which affects habitual behavior. At this point, the lab rats lost control and were merely responding automatically.
In other words, a previously unknown pathway within the brain that links impulse with habits has been discovered.
This finding contradicts the belief of many that addiction is only a result of a lack of self-control. Rather, there is a change in a portion of the brain that does not necessarily respond to cognitive behavioral therapy and other commonly used treatments.
The Use Of Drugs To Prevent Relapse
In another study published by Biological Psychiatry, N-acetylcysteine, a drug used to treat paracetamol overdose, was shown to decrease lab rats’ desire to continue cocaine use. This finding may eventually lead to more studies and research being conducted on drugs that can potentially help individuals who are struggling with drug addiction and relapse.
One of the key indicators that someone has an addiction is that they will continue the use of a substance even when there are negative consequences. This indicates that more is going on than just a lack of self-control. With these new findings, there may eventually be new treatment protocols that can increase the chance of life-long recovery without relapse.
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