New studies are beginning to shed light on the wanting Dave discussed here many years ago and the wanting nearly all of us felt during recovery. In fact, the newest studies suggest that drug addiction's very foundation is a disease and illness rooted in want. Now for some interesting study spin, imagine the brain badly wanting something that you don't really like. Is that possible? Apparently!
While a few of us took to smoking like fish to water, for most, our bodies rebelled again those first cigarettes, at least until scores of toxins numbed mouth, throat and lung tissues to the point that they no longer felt the assaults and ended their rebellion. But at least three critical events we're happening during those first few smokes. While the body was growing numb to the toxins, there was not yet any want for nicotine. It wasn't until nicotine's continued use nicotine saturated dopamine pathway receptors, temporarily desensitizing them, and somehow causing the brain to grow/activate additional receptors (a process known as up-regulation). Somewhere in this process want was born.
I remember my first moment of "want" like it was yesterday. I'd smoked five cigarettes over a three day period and was then alone in my room without a 15 year-old girl to try and impress (my excuse for smoking) when my brain commanded me to find and smoke another. My first cue was likely related to nicotine's 2 hour half-life as I'd never smoked in my room or any building before. But there I was, suddenly wanting something that I didn't think I liked. She smoked and I just wanted her to like me.
The following study abstract is followed by a link to a full text copy. It's about how they conditioned rats to seek and taste something that they didn't like, a taste of salt that was three times saltier than sea water. My point is this. Recovery is a temporary journey of readjustment where we each move beyond thousands of the most powerful wanting memories the mind appears capable of generating, those created in responding to cues flowing from brain dopamine pathways. It appears that the greater our sense of nicotine deprivation when smoking the more enduring the resulting memory.
The beauty of coming home is that natural, normal and healthy wanting gradually buries and hides the lie we once lived, that that next nicotine was as important as eating. Without food and water we die. Without nicotine we thrive! It just takes a bit of patience to allow ourselves to arrive here on Easy Street, where entire days without wanting gradually become our new sense of normal. Or should I say, again become our old or pre-nicotine sense of normal. There was always only one rule to having years of addiction chatter at last come to an end ... no nicotine just one hour, challenge and day a time! Be proud of yourself. Yes you can!!!!!
Breathe deep, hug hard, live long,
John (Gold x10)
Dynamic computation of incentive salience:
"wanting" what was never "liked"
Journal: The Journal of Neuroscience, September 30, 2009, Volume 29(39): Pages 12220-12228.
Authors: Tindell AJ, Smith KS, Berridge KC, Aldridge JW.
Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1043, USA.
Abstract Pavlovian cues for rewards become endowed with incentive salience, guiding "wanting" to their learned reward. Usually, cues are "wanted" only if their rewards have ever been "liked," but here we show that mesocorticolimbic systems can recompute "wanting" de novo by integrating novel physiological signals with a cue's preexisting associations to an outcome that lacked hedonic value. That is, a cue's incentive salience can be recomputed adaptively. We demonstrate that this recomputation is encoded in neural signals coursing through the ventral pallidum.
Ventral pallidum neurons do not ordinarily fire vigorously to a cue that predicts the previously "disliked" taste of intense salt, although they do fire to a cue that predicts the taste of previously "liked" sucrose. Yet we show that neural firing rises dramatically to the salt cue immediately and selectively when that cue is encountered in a never-before-experienced state of physiological salt depletion. Crucially
, robust neural firing to the salt cue occurred the first time it was encountered in the new depletion state
(in cue-only extinction trials), even before its associated intense saltiness has ever been tasted as positively "liked" (salt taste had always been "disliked" before).
The amplification of incentive salience did not require additional learning about the cue or the newly positive salt taste. Thus dynamic recomputation of cue-triggered "wanting" signals can occur in real time at the moment of cue re-encounter by combining previously learned Pavlovian associations with novel physiological information about a current state of specific appetite.
PMID: 19793980 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]