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Drug addiction is characterized by obligation to seek and take the drug. It includes a loss of control when it comes to limiting drug intake and is unfortunately an emergence of a negative emotional state, which can sooner or later lead to a pathological state (addiction).  A lot of elements are involved in drug addiction including allostatic changes seen in the reward system and stress response systems, a change in these two systems can cause a change in self-regulation. Once this happens a person’s ability to self-regulate drug intake fails and then leads to an addiction.

When someone first begins to take a drug they will experience drug sensitization, which is the opposite of tolerance and encourages them to take the drug more frequently throughout the day because during this process you “need less of a drug to experience the same feelings and experience of reward at previous higher doses” (addiction slide, 7). During sensitization the dopamine being released into the brain causes an overwhelming sensation of euphoria, which is the “reward” for taking the drug. This is what has people coming back for more. This could lead to problems within the reward pathway because although the change in dopamine levels in the beginning stages creates an enhanced reward experience it also overtime can leave the reward system vulnerable to permanent changes which changes their brain causing drug intake to be required for the brain to function like it did before drug use. When putting together a discrepancy-reducing loop that typifies initial drug seeking behavior we can conclude that the ideal state of the individual would be the reward of feeling good. The comparator stage will then 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 will start participating in behaviors until they successfully reach it.

Once someone participates in drug use for an extended period of time they will eventually reach an allostatic state, which involves their reward pathway, and stress response pathway. “When an allostatic point is reached in the reward pathway it is also activating the response systems” (addiction slide, 14) and then this leads to an allostatic state in the stress response pathway so that you’re always under a state of stress. This is because once drugs begin to leave the body after a lot of it has been taken in your body begins to feel the effects which leads to stress and hyperalgesia (enhanced pain sensitivity). Once these undesirable feelings set it causes a negative affected state and forces that person to begin taking the drug again to alleviate the feeling of withdrawal.  This is where the discrepancy-enlarging loop comes into play because it works to avoid negative feelings and forces drug intake to avoid negative feelings. This becomes a continuous, vicious cycle within an addict’s life and can be very hard to break.

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(Top Tutor) Daniel C.
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