Drug addiction appears to have become an enormous challenge to the global public healthcare systems. It has also raised ethical issues among the global population, especially regarding the menace of drug smuggling and abuse that has led to the increase of the prevalence rates of addiction to various drugs. One of the most challenging drug abuse related issue is the dual-diagnosis, also known as co-occurring disorder. This condition presents immense challenges to psychotherapists because its management requires multidimensional approaches to address the symptoms of the involved addictions (Barrett, Lewellen & Watkins, 2001). As a result, this issue has raised concern among psychologists and other professionals such as neuroscientists leading to extensive research on the causes of addiction. Therefore, the ambiguous question in the minds of most professionals is; “what causes addiction, and what is the best approach to counteract it?” This question is what this paper will answer by presenting a persuasive argument on the effect of dopamine in cocaine addiction.
Cause of Cocaine Addiction
In theory, addiction has always been considered to be caused by interplay between genetic and environmental factors. Drug abuse involves exposure to high levels of drugs such as cocaine, alcohol and marijuana. However, the transition from drug abuse to addiction involves different forces, rather than the social factors related to drug abuse.
As such, changes in the brain chemicals, primarily dopamine appears to be the principal cause of cocaine addiction. Neurobiologists have identified that cocaine abuse causes diverse effects on the brain’s response to chemical stimuli, and this is attributable to the impact of cocaine on certain areas of the brain (Nestler, 2005). Therefore, dopamine build-up in the brain owing to cocaine long-term exposure is responsible for the addiction process.
According to neurobiology studies, cocaine’s initial effect is the build-up of dopamine, a neurotransmitter leading to what is referred to as the ‘rush.’ This psychological effect influences the functioning of the dopaminergic cells leading to genetic changes of some genes (Kalivas, Shaham & Thomas, 2008).
Therefore, it appears imperative to relate genetic factors, which have been considered by some neuroscientists as the cause of cocaine addition, to the dopamine build-up in the brain owing to cocaine exposure. This explains why cocaine addiction runs across families, especially in individuals with first degree relative with cocaine abuse disorder.
Positive Reinforcement in Cocaine Addiction
Evidence for my point of view on dopamine as the principal cause of addiction can be provided by the cocaine’s positive reinforcement. Evidence indicates that, cocaine abuse has reinforcement effects which lead to the transition from cocaine abuse to addiction. Everitt & Robbins (2005) admit that cocaine addiction serves as the outcome of a series of transitions that occur from the initial cocaine use, in which voluntary uptake of cocaine, either smoked or injected in the bloodstream causes reinforcing effects. This phenomenon causes loss of control over the behavior of cocaine abuse; thus, it becomes habitual which in turn leads to the transition to ultimate compulsive.
Ordinarily, cocaine acts as an instrumental reinforcer, and this explains why cocaine exposure leads to self-administration. Consequently, environmental stimuli associated with the effects of cocaine’s self-administration obtain incentive salience, primarily through pavlovian conditioning process. This leads to the generation of subjective effects including some distortions in the brain’s sensory processing and autonomic activity sensing. In addition, cocaine tends to exaggerate the incentive salience or perpetual impact of environmental stimuli leading to the development of the ‘rewarding’ effect of cocaine.
From a psychological perspective, it appears that the sense of control over the subjective effects which involve exteroceptive and interoceptive states constitutes to the instrumental cocaine reinforcement. This is one of the many reinforcement effects associated with cocaine abuse, as well as, other stimulant drugs.
On the other hand, dopamine build-up owing to cocaine exposure exerts immense effects on natural reinforcers; thus, promoting the transition from cocaine abuse to addiction. For instance, dopamine build-up influences the brain’s response to conditioned stimuli that predict natural reinforcers leading to changes in behavior, especially regarding food. Ordinarily, the locomotor stimulation which is produced by cocaine, a psychomotor stimulant occurs through a motivational effect in which the process of pavlovian becomes aroused. This arousal of the pavlovian process leads to an increase in the rates of operant (instrumental) behavior, and this is what causes cocaine addiction.
In addition, some conditioned stimuli act as conditioned reinforcers under cocaine (primary reinforce) exposure resulting into conditioned reinforcement, more or less the same as it is nicotine and amphetamine addiction (Everitt & Robbins, 2005). As a result, cocaine self-administration behavior develops in cocaine abusers and the ultimate result of this behavior is the development of stimulus-response. This stimulus-response is manifested through habitual administration of cocaine and continued stimulus-response association advance into addiction (Everitt et al., 2007).
- Quote paper
- Patrick Kimuyu (Author), 2016, What Causes Addiction? Diverse Approaches to Counteract Addiction, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/381307