a disease of learning and memory?
Many if not most actively feeding drug addicts -- regardless of chemical -- feel convinced that their "aaah" is worth all the bad that comes with it. Forget for the moment the super toxin nicotine's assault and ravage of the human body, including gradual significant destruction of the brain's gray matter (see Nicotine and Brain Damage ). Instead try to place value upon non-injury related costs.
Is the pack-a-day smoker who spends $3.50 a pack saying that their stolen "aaah" feelings are worth the $1,275 a year, plus transportation costs to get to their supplier, plus the fifteen 40-hour work weeks (608 hours) devoted to servicing their addiction (assuming 5 minutes per smoke). Wouldn't an honest mind also add the value of the constant interruption of life itself, with loss of some of its most special moments, as servicing our addiction took priority over companionship, eating, thirst, accomplishment and, yes, even brief breaks from true romance.
Although researchers tell us that our brains likely have varying degrees of diminished gray matter as compared to those who never became dependent upon nicotine, the irony of it all is that nicotine addiction isn't initially associated with memory loss or an inability to learn but with remembering too well and an inability to forget.
The brain's dopamine pathways are supposed to act as a wonderful built in teacher with pre-programmed values that place priority on survival acts. The pathways not only create powerful aaah sensations but also record a super high definition pre-frontal cortex memory that ties each "aaah" to the specific event stimulating its production. Each time our senses remind our brain of previously recorded associations it can instantly trigger dopamine flow as we anticipate the arrival of even more dopamine that will come when the expectation is actually fulfilled.
Researchers have found that when deprived of the anticipated result (in the nicotine addict's case, not receiving a new supply of nicotine) the normal baseline level of dopamine output, which flows to some degree in all of us, is actually diminished or shut off. They believe that this can foster a sense of anxiety or even depression and may form the basis for crave episodes.
Why do so many of our brother and sister nicotine addicts sacrifice life itself for a chemical? I submit that it isn't because of the "aaah" itself but that the circuits producing the "aaah" have been hijacked. It is extremely challenging to make sound value decisions when the very goal pathways designed to teach importance and establish priorities have been taken hostage by an external chemical.
It's easy for the drug addict who is temporarily satisfied to briefly find logic and reason about the need to quit. But experience a shut down of all dopamine output while saying no to a powerful memory that associates getting more nicotine with another powerful "aaah" and see what happens.
We give thanks that recovery anxieties associated with encountering a triggering association don't last longer than 3 minutes before normal natural dopamine flow is restored. We give thanks that most of these powerful "pay attention" memories and the particular place, person, time, activity, sound, smell, or emotion association between them and smoking are broken with a single encounter during which the mind does not receive the expected result. We give thanks that we now realize that everything we feel and sense during these challenges is a sign of just how deeply nicotine had invaded our lives and a true sign of healing. We give thanks that at the end of each such encounter that we are returned yet another aspect of life.
Nicotine dependency recovery is about picking up the pieces. It's about learning and discovering that everything we did while using nicotine can be done as well or better without nicotine's influence upon us. It's about allowing the time needed to put yourself in position to realize that human relationships carry potential to be vastly more wonderful than chemical ones. This is likely the most wonderful holiday gift that you've ever given you, Sharon. Hold it close and protect it above all else. We're each with you in spirit. Breathe deep, hug hard, live long,
John (Gold x7)
Much of the above discussion is from an article by Dr. Steven E. Hyman, M.D. entitled Addiction: A Disease of Learning and Memory, appearing in the August 205 edition of American Journal of Psychiatry at pages 1414 to 1422. This link is to a full text copy of the article: http://ajp.psychiatryonli...i/content/full/162/8/1414