Addiction and Motivation
When the brain is rewarded unexpectedly the Reward System takes note in order to remember how to repeat the positive experience. This is a key learning mechanism. Thus though the Reward System is iresponsible for feeling of pleasure, it does this in service of a higher goal: learning, memory and motivation.
Drug abuse alters the structure and function of the Reward System. Thus, drugs don’t only get you high, they also skew normal motivational systems. In particular, the memory of the positive benefits of a drug high — the emotional benefits — provide a strong incentive to repeat that experience. That’s one of the reasons drug users continue to return to taking drugs. By the time a drug user becomes addicted, the motivation to keep using drugs becomes toxic.
Because of the significant impact drugs have on learning and memory, addiction researchers describe the disease, in part, as a memory and motivational disorder. Treatment, they say, is a lengthy process during which the motivational power of those toxic memories diminishes. The longer one is sober, the more the power of those memories wanes and cravings become less robust and compelling.
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