Drug addiction treated like a learning disorder
Why is learning so important in addiction? For one, addiction can’t occur without it. If you don’t learn that a drug makes you feel better (at least at first) and then continue to take it to cope even when it does more harm than good, you can’t be addicted. If you don’t learn the connection between the drug and its effects, you basically wouldn’t even know what to crave, so you couldn’t pursue it.
Second, like other developmental disorders – such as ADHD, dyslexia, autism and schizophrenia – addiction unfolds as the brain matures through specific stages and the person responds to formative experiences. ADHD and autism, for instance, tend to start producing symptoms in early childhood, while schizophrenia does not usually appear until adolescence and early adulthood.
Addiction, too, is overwhelmingly a disorder of emerging adulthood. Ninety percent of all addictions begin during the teens and 20s. This isn’t coincidental: during this time, the circuitry of the brain involved in love and parenting begins to come online, and it is this same system that goes wrong in addiction. When vulnerable people – particularly those predisposed to mental illness and those who have experienced childhood trauma – reach their teens, they often learn that drugs ease their way into the social connections that are so important at this age.
The good news about addiction as a learning disorder is that the learning that occurs doesn’t “break” your brain. Instead, what happens is, again, very similar to the changes seen when someone falls in love or becomes a parent. These experiences profoundly shift values and priorities – and they can lead people do things that they otherwise wouldn’t. But they don’t eliminate free will, they simply skew it, which is why the relationship between addiction and choice is so difficult to describe. To read more click here.
Drug addiction will be discussed at the Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference 2016, themed Alcohol – Other Drugs – Behavioural Addictions, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery will be held on the Gold Coast from the 19 – 20 May 2016. To view the high quality Conference Program CLICK HERE.
To register your attendance at the conference CLICK HERE. Early bird registrations close this Friday 8th April so be quick to receive a discounted rate.
Hosted by The Australia and New Zealand Mental Health Association promotes and encourages participation from all parts of the sector towards a shared appreciation of what medical, psycho-social and peer-based approaches can offer, through the experiences of service users, clinicians, and researchers alike.