What do cookies and methamphetamine

During his work as a psychologist I have not found a patient who liked to be drug addicts or compulsive overeating. Why do people continue to take drugs, despite the stigma and health consequences? What causes them to swallow more food against the advice of doctors?

The answer will be the modern society the conditions ideal for the emergence of these dependencies.

It is well known that stress prompts people to seek solace in drugs or food (the phrase “compulsively” exists for a reason). However, in the public consciousness remains the false belief that addiction or Vice, or given the nature of the behavior and, therefore, dependent either fully own their mind, or not own them at all. Already been many studies that proved the link between stress and addiction. Surprising that these studies indicate the direct impact of the environment on the state of dependence.

Neuroscientists have found that food and drugs affect the same reward system in the brain, and the brains of humans and other animals experience stress, undergo changes that make them more susceptible to addiction.

Look at the opioid epidemic. According to the assessment made by this newspaper last month, in 2016, more than 59 million Americans died from a drug overdose — the largest annual jump in history. In the 2015 study, Princeton University economists Anne Case (Anna Case) and Angus Deaton (Angus Deaton) reported that especially the alarming increase in the number of deaths in middle age compared with the 1990s came in the white middle class. In large measure this was due to the “death of despair”, including suicides and death from drugs and alcohol. These people have not suddenly lost its moral fibre, becoming dependent. In fact, they are faced with unemployment, a steady deterioration of their position in society, and hence with increasing stress.

© AP Photo, Dmitry BeliakovВыпивший a man dressed as Santa Claus sleeping in the Moscow metro

In a 2010 study Diana Martinez (Diana Martinez) and her colleagues at Columbia University scanned the brains of healthy subjects and found that the worst social position and less support from others (both considered to be a cause of stress) were associated with a decrease in the number of dopamine receptor called D2 in the reward system of the brain.

Any rewards — sex, food, money and drugs lead to the release of dopamine, which conveys the sense of fun and tells the brain something like: “This is an important experience. Don’t forget it!”.

The reward mechanism was developed to encourage us to seek food or sex in the environment. The more D2 receptors, the more you receive natural stimulation and pleasure, and the less likely that you will want to use drugs or food to compensate for its lack.

Dr. Nora Volkov (Nora Volkow), Director of the National Institute of drug abuse, and her colleagues demonstrated this in a study of ritalin. Healthy, devoid of dependency people with fewer D2 receptors had the pleasure of consuming the drug, whereas holders of a greater number felt the effects of the drug unpleasant.

Number of receptors not only affect the likelihood of drug use, but also the changing under their influence. In the same study, doctor Volkov has discovered that cocaine, heroin, alcohol or methamphetamine significantly decreased the number of D2-receptors, which were not recovered and for a long time after the cessation of drug use. These people have a significantly reduced sensitivity to rewards, they are less motivated and can perceive the world is dim, which again encourages them to seek chemical means to improve everyday life.

Drug use also contributes to the loss of self-control. Doctor Volkov has found that reduced numbers of D2 was associated with lower activity of the prefrontal cortex that limits the ability of critical thinking and restraint.

The research in neuroscience allow us to understand the mechanisms behind compulsive overeating. Like drugs, food stimulates the reward mechanism of the brain. Chronic intake of saturated fat and sugar products likewise associated with reduced numbers of D2, and people with a reduced number of D2 are more likely to strive for the same food. Thus, a vicious circle, where drinking is only fuelling the desire.

Doctor Volkov and her colleagues have demonstrated that suffering from serious obesity people had reduced number of D2 receptors, and this decrease was proportional to their body mass index. This blunting of the reward mechanism meant that they had sufficient satisfaction from the consumption of food in the normal amount. At the same time, the demonstration associated with food images or smells they experienced more appetite than healthy people. Furthermore, as addicts who are suffering from obesity with a smaller number of D2 receptors was suffering from a decreased activity of the prefrontal cortex, making it difficult for them to control.

Perhaps at this point you will inquire, what sets the initial state of the reward mechanism. Partly it is due to heredity. We know that some combinations of genes increase the risk of dependence on different drugs. However, conducted on monkeys indicate that the environment may be stronger than heredity and affect the brain.

The good news is that though we are unable to change genetics, we can change the conditions of their life.

Michael Nader (Michael Nader) of the medical faculty of Wake forest University demonstrated this in his study of the effects of cocaine on monkeys. When monkeys are transferred from the personal cells in General, some take the leading role, while others — subordinates. For the monkeys who have become leaders and, therefore, receive more attention to care from other monkeys, as well as access to food, the change becomes positive. As a result they have a growing number of D2-receptors, and they are less interested in cocaine use. However, to find themselves in a subordinate position of animals translation in society leads to stress, and as a result they consume more cocaine.

Surprisingly, the effect of environment was easily reversible: we should return to the monkey-leader in a single cell, as it is the level of D2 decreases, and the attraction of cocaine is increasing. In other words, changes in the living conditions enough to increase or decrease the probability depending on the animal from the drug.

The same applies to people. Even those who are not inclined to dependence on nature, can become an addict under stress. Is it any wonder that the difficult financial situation, which worried so many Americans, turning them into drug addicts? Your brain literally changes depending on place of residence, social status and stress level.

Not in the least affect the likelihood based on the availability of drugs. No matter how vulnerable you are to stress: you will become an addict if you can’t buy drugs. The same applies to compulsive overeating.

Quite a long time, people have consumed food without epidemics of obesity, characteristic of modernity. In 1990 not one state in our country, the number of obese adults did not exceed 15%; to 2015 in 44 States it is 25% and above. What has changed?

© AP Photo, Mark LennihanМужчина overweight in new York

Our contemporaries not be deprived of for no reason at all self-control. The real change was the mass distribution of cheap and nutritious food, bringing more pleasure. Drinking a glass of orange juice, you are unlikely to be satisfied with healthier and less calorie orange, which needs to be cleaned.


For most of its history, the amount of food was limited and the consumption of the greatest number of calories whenever possible, it was a winning evolutionary strategy. Savannah wasn’t chocolate biscuit cakes.

Our evolution hasn’t prepared us for duet of the modern high-calorie food and powerful drugs. Their ability to affect our reward mechanism, to reconfigure our brains and push us to compulsive consumption is unprecedented.

Factory food production has turned it into a kind of drug and pharmaceuticals has led to the emergence of more powerful substances converted to entertainment use. We have extracted opium from the poppy, and quickly found a way to make a thousand times more powerful opiates, causing many times more addictive. Not content with hemp, we have heavy duty types, extracted cannabinoids and synthetic boarded a threat copy. This list goes on and on.

Finally, his role could be played by the advertising industry. According to Dr. Volkov, she and her colleagues “are testing the reaction of the brain to subliminal messages” associated with food and drugs. Her hypothesis is that drug addicts and suffering from obesity people are more prone to such messages.

Fortunately, our brains are extremely flexible and receptive to new experiences. Although to say this is much easier than to do simple constraints in access to high-calorie food and drug enough to return our brains to the pleasure of healthy food and sober living.

Meanwhile, it should be remembered that we have no control over their heredity or that we saw adversity, particularly on their influence on our brain. Even with iron self-control people can become a victim of dependence on food or drugs with the proper combination of adversity and stress.