Drug addiction is characterizedby obligation to seek and take the drug. It includes a loss of control when itcomes to limiting drug intake and is unfortunately an emergence of a negativeemotional state, which can sooner or later lead to a pathological state(addiction). A lot of elements are involved in drug addiction includingallostatic changes seen in the reward system and stress response systems, achange in these two systems can cause a change in self-regulation. Once thishappens a person’s ability to self-regulate drug intake fails and then leads toan addiction.When someone first begins totake a drug they will experience drug sensitization, which is the opposite oftolerance and encourages them to take the drug more frequently throughout theday because during this process you “need less of a drug to experience the samefeelings and experience of reward at previous higher doses” (addiction slide,7). During sensitization the dopamine being released into the brain causes anoverwhelming sensation of euphoria, which is the “reward” for taking the drug.This is what has people coming back for more. This could lead to problemswithin the reward pathway because although the change in dopamine levels in thebeginning stages creates an enhanced reward experience it also overtime canleave the reward system vulnerable to permanent changes which changes theirbrain causing drug intake to be required for the brain to function like it didbefore drug use. When putting together a discrepancy-reducing loop thattypifies initial drug seeking behavior we can conclude that the ideal state ofthe individual would be the reward of feeling good. The comparator stage willthen compare the current perception of the individual to his/her ideal state.If the individual is not at his/her ideal state (feeling good) then they willstart participating in behaviors until they successfully reach it.Once someone participates indrug use for an extended period of time they will eventually reach anallostatic state, which involves their reward pathway, and stress responsepathway. “When an allostatic point is reached in the reward pathway it is alsoactivating the response systems” (addiction slide, 14) and then this leads toan allostatic state in the stress response pathway so that you’re always undera state of stress. This is because once drugs begin to leave the body after alot of it has been taken in your body begins to feel the effects which leads tostress and hyperalgesia (enhanced pain sensitivity). Once these undesirablefeelings set it causes a negative affected state and forces that person tobegin taking the drug again to alleviate the feeling of withdrawal. Thisis where the discrepancy-enlarging loop comes into play because it works toavoid negative feelings and forces drug intake to avoid negative feelings. Thisbecomes a continuous, vicious cycle within an addict’s life and can be veryhard to break.
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