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The Thirteenth StepAddiction in the Age of Brain Science$
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Markus Heilig

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231172363

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231172363.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM COLUMBIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.columbia.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Minnesota Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CUPSO for personal use.date: 01 July 2022

The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness

(p.57) 7 The Pursuit of Happiness
The Thirteenth Step

Markus Heilig

Columbia University Press

This chapter discusses brain reward systems and their role in addiction. Research has shown that brains have reward systems that use dopamine to drive approach behavior needed to obtain natural rewards. Addictive drugs were able to hijack people's lives because they hijack these endogenous reward systems and activate dopamine transmission directly. Because the activation they produce is so much higher than that triggered by natural rewards, and because they offer an opportunity to short-circuit the activation of reward systems without requiring the hard work needed for the normal rewards of life, drugs tend to win over natural rewards. For example, mating only doubles dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens while amphetamine increases them tenfold. The chapter also considers whether alcohol activates the classical brain reward circuitry in humans, similar to what had been shown for stimulants, and discusses how mu-opioid receptors in the nervous system produce the known effects of opioids.

Keywords:   brain reward systems, addiction, addictive behavior, human brain, dopamine, alcohol, mu-opioid receptors, nervous system

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