The Brain’s Rewarding System & Addiction

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The Brain’s Rewarding System & Addiction

Abstract The purpose of this paper is to examine the article, “The Brain’s Rewarding System & Addiction” (2004) by Katharine P. Bailey, MSN. In this article, I did not find a general hypothesis. Studies in this article show that most drugs directly or indirectly cause selective elevation of dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens (NA), the ventral tegmental area (VTA), and the limbic system, consequently called the reward center of the brain (Bailey, 2004). Behaviors that bring pleasure and are also crucial to existence (eating, drinking, and sex) also activate the same reward circuitry, however, activation of this circuitry by addictive drugs can be much
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Bailey (2004) used the Substance abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], and the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health to gain access to records and reports on how many Americans were binge drinkers and drug users. It was concluded that an estimated 14 million Americans (in 2004) met the diagnostic criteria for alcohol/drug abuse (Bailey, 2004). She used this information to compile the data used on the first page of her report to explain that alcoholism and addiction are devastating problems that many people/families deal with daily.

Discussion Addiction is defined as a chronic brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. In my opinion, compulsive drug use is a hallmark of addiction, yet a mechanistic understanding of this process has been elusive. Drug use is initiated primarily to obtain the excitatory actions of addictive drugs on brain reward systems. The reward pathway evolved to promote activities that are essential to the survival of the human race as well as other mammals (Bailey 2004). When stimulated by drugs of abuse, addiction often occurs especially in those who are genetically or otherwise “neurochemically” vulnerable
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