How Addiction Takes Hold of the Brain
- Drug use impairs the brain's flexibility, making it difficult to change habits.
- Neural communication is impaired by broken machinery at the synapses—the connections between brain cells.
- Repairing this machinery with pharmacological treatment can restore flexibility, allowing an addict's desire to change to triumph over his or her habit.
Reid had been drinking hard since 1994, when sickness, his father's death and business troubles had him reaching for more alcohol than usual. Eventually he was knocking back 10 or more drinks a day. In 2009 his family leveled an ultimatum. He had to give up alcohol or get out.
“That choice sounds real simple, but it's very, very hard,” says the 58-year-old college-educated businessman, whose last name has been withheld. “I've got a wife to die for and two of the greatest kids in the world, and I'm sitting there looking in the mirror, asking myself, ‘You're going to give all this up for that drink?’” he remembers. Still, he drank, secretly downing miniature bottles of vodka while walking the dog, hiding out in the bathroom or going through the car wash.
This article was originally published with the title A Lifeline for Addicts.