Recovery over Relapse: A Synaptic Challenge

Both addiction and recovery live in the way synaptic communication is structured. Relapse also thrives on the way synapses are either silenced or heard. Triggers and cravings are phenomena within the brain. Until recently, there has only been one neurobiological model for understanding how relapse works in regards to how the brain responds to triggers. Cravings occur when the brain discover it needs more dopamine production than it currently has in order to achieve feelings of pleasure. Triggers can be environmental, emotional, or situational cues that signal the brain. Reactively, the brain searches for pleasure first, before taking other action. On the outside this is often regarded as the “addict’s” way of “coping” with uncomfortable situations. Their brains have been “rewired” to rely on the presence of pleasurable sensations. Developing this process is equally due to habituation. Behaviorally, a person suffering from their attachment to addiction is also suffering from their attachment to avoiding pain. Choosing to avoid pain by clinging to pleasure instills this pattern perpetually. Stressful recall is not the only source of inspiration for craving. Euphoric recall is another type of association and trigger where pure pleasure is elicited in response to an external cue. Overtime these responses are stored in the synapses and gain a prominent voice in how the brain functions.

New research suggests that cravings as a response to triggers is as much a response of ‘loud’ synapses as it is a response of silenced synapses. How all the knowledge of recovery can be ignored when recovering addict’s are faced with the challenge of relapse is a mystery to many. Typical twelve step philosophy postulates that the addict is simply powerless to the insanity of the mind when it comes to drugs and alcohol. The silenced synapses are the very ones with the ability to promote recovery. Testing mice, researchers discovered an association between environment and drug use. Researchers discovered an “increase in silent synapses” on the activated neurons, meaning that the associations lived only in the neurons which created them. Being able to pinpoint and activate the surrounding ‘silenced’ synapses could help scientists develop new manners of treatment that helps the brain naturally retain recovery associations instead.

Refuge Recovery offers detox, inpatient, outpatient, partial hospitalization, and sober living services to men and women seeking a spiritual approach to treating addiction. Our mission is to help you embrace your authentic self to live free of the attachment to drugs and alcohol. For more information on our treatment programs call 323-207-0276.

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