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BrainFacts.org

Introduction

Addiction is a chronic brain disease that causes people to lose their ability to resist a craving, despite negative physical, personal, or social consequences. People seek out nicotine and alcohol, or engage in gambling, because it makes them feel good or lessens feelings of stress and sadness. Many abused drugs produce a pleasurable feeling by exciting cells in the brain’s reward center. With repeated use, drugs can change the structure of the brain and its chemical makeup. But why can some people casually drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes, while others fight to kick the habit? Neuroscience research, both in human and animal studies, is helping scientists identify key factors that influence susceptibility to addiction, such as a person’s genetic makeup, vulnerability to stress, and the age they start engaging in the behavior. Slowly but surely, new studies are unraveling clues about processes in the brain that influence the likelihood of drug relapse. Such insights may help improve rehabilitation programs and drive down the global cost of addiction.

Discoveries

Source: Society for Neuroscience
The main active ingredient in marijuana alters the normal communication between cells and circuits in the brain.
Source: Society for Neuroscience
Experiments with mice show how much cocaine exposure physically changes the brain.
Source: Society for Neuroscience

A classic film noir about love, addiction, and dopamine. Learn how drugs affect the brain in a dramatic black and white tale. 

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse
To block the effects of abused drugs, scientists recruit the immune system.

Addiction in the News

Source: FOX News
Date: 3 Dec 2014

Activity in the brain’s self-control center may predict the chance of relapse after an attempt to quit smoking, according to new research.

Source: BBC
Date: 20 June 2014
Spending time basking in the sun's warming rays may have addictive properties, claim researchers in the US.
Source: The Boston Globe
Date: 15 April 2014
Occasional marijuana smokers show abnormalities in two key areas of their brain related to emotion, motivation, and decision making, according to a new study.

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