At The Way Out Recovery Rehab Santa Clarita, staff are raising awareness about how addiction takes place in the brain, often leading to negative behaviors that are hurtful to loved ones.
Different areas of the brain are responsible for different functions, and addiction occurs in two specific parts of the brain: the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system, according to Bob Sharits, program director at The Way Out Recovery SCV.
Humans are separated from other living creatures by the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for abstract thought, impulse control, forward thinking, placing value on certain things and decision-making, Sharits noted.
“When you look at the behavior of people who suffer from addictive disorders or even mental health issues, a lot of people are really turned off by that because the behaviors translate into lack of impulse control, the lack of being able to have forward thinking, it looks like I am unable to place meaning and value on certain things in comparison to my drug use,” Sharits said.
He added, “So when I go to my loved one and I say, ‘If you loved us enough, you would stop,’ what’s interesting about that is that it’s not that I don’t love you, it’s that I don’t have the ability inside of my brain to be able to compare those things.”
The limbic system, also called the midbrain, is present in every brain on earth and is responsible for survival, according to Sharits.
“Addiction takes place in the same part of the brain that is responsible for eating, for procreating, and for protecting and defending myself or running away,” he said. “It is the same part of my brain that gets me, when push comes to shove, out of life-threatening situations.”
Sharits added that for individuals suffering from addiction, this area of the brain is “taking over and treating my drug use or my addictive behavior just like any other survivor coping skills, and there is nothing that will get in between unless we do some work and we get into treatment and we start to undo that.”
Understanding this is important in relation to a loved one looking at the actions of an addict and wondering, “How could they?,” Sharits said.
To find out more about how addiction takes place in the brain with Bob Sharits, click here for the KHTS podcast.