Professor Wim van den Brink of the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam is an expert in the field of addiction. As evidenced by his research, Brink has discovered that addicts have fewer dopamine receptors, also known as pleasure receptors, in their brains, which is the main reason they tend to seek out more stimulation. This stimulation obviously comes from the rush of using illegal substances such as drugs and alcohol.
“Addicts find it difficult to receive pleasure,” said Prof van den Brink. “They are not likely to enjoy most of the ordinary things most of us enjoy, experiences such as a day at the beach or night at a club. They are looking for more and more stimulus.”
Professor van den Brink does not solely blame a person’s genetic vulnerability for obtaining the disease of addiction. It is also largely in part due to the environmental influences that addicts face each and every day. If a person begins smoking or engaging in cocaine, the reason for the introduction is due largely in part to your environment, but the tendency to stick with it is genetically determined. The reason being because the more a person abuses a substance, the more the dopamine receptors diminish in the brain causing that person to seek more of the wonderful feeling they are experiencing. This can be very dangerous for addicts because their ability to understand the conflict between the short-term pleasure the substance gives them, and the damage that long-term addiction can do, is lost.
Substance abuse addiction is a very dangerous disease, for thousands of people of all ages. Thankfully there is help. Although genetics cannot be changed, the way a person lives his or her life can be.