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Reward Deficiency Syndrome and Addiction

Reward Deficiency Syndrome and AddictionAddiction and mental health professionals have recently recognized a serious physiological and psychological disorder that may predispose a person to a greatly increased risk for addiction. This condition, called Reward Deficiency Syndrome, describes a person who lacks the normal ability to feel pleasure. The brain uses pleasure responses to reinforce certain behaviors. The neurological chemicals, neurosteroids, used by the brain to stimulate the pleasure center of the brain are either lacking or ineffective in people with Reward Deficiency Syndrome. They do not feel pleasure or reward the way normal people do. That changes, however, when alcohol or drugs are introduced into the equation.

The Effects of Addictive Substances on Reward Deficiency Syndrome

When intoxicating substances such as opiates, alcohol, antidepressants, or stimulants hit the reward center of the brain they light it up like a Christmas tree. The brain of the individual then immediately craves that pleasure in a very deep and emotional way that is much more powerful than conscious thought. Individuals with Reward Deficiency Syndrome may become addicted the first time they get high or drunk.

There is another dangerous phenomenon associated with this disorder: many people who suffer from Reward Deficiency Disorder do not feel the same hangover and withdrawal effects after heavy drinking that most people feel. For many people it is the fear of hangover that prevents overconsumption of alcohol. Without the negative physiological symptoms such as nausea, light sensitivity, headache, diarrhea and the rest, there is little incentive for someone with Reward Deficiency Syndrome to avoid getting drunk or high. All they feel is the pleasure of the experience and not the pain. Considering that without these chemicals these people often are unable to feel pleasure at all, the draw of drug and alcohol abuse is powerful indeed.

Treatment for Reward Deficiency Syndrome and Addiction

A person who has become dependent on drugs or alcohol as a result of Reward Deficiency Syndrome may require specialized treatment in order to overcome their addiction. In addition to the same comprehensive psychological and physical rehab that any addict would require, these individuals frequently benefit from prescription recovery medications such as Naltrexone. This medication blocks the intoxicating effects of alcohol and actually causes intensified side-effects of withdrawal and hangover. The hope is that the new association of drugs or alcohol with painful and miserable symptoms will help the addict build new motivation for staying clean.

24 Hour Addiction Helpline

If you suspect that you or someone you love might suffer from Reward Deficiency Syndrome please call our toll-free helpline right away. Our counselors can discreetly and confidently answer any questions you may have about this rare disorder and how best to navigate it. The most successful recovery programs take time and effort to undo the biochemical damage done to the addict’s brain. Call now for help. We’re ready to provide whatever help you need.

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