View Full Version : Addiction and extreme memory

Roberta Jewell
July 20th, 2006, 08:27 PM
You'll have to register at the Boston Globe to see the full story, but it's worth the trouble. A fascinating theory.


Addiction's grip now seen as 'extreme memory'

By Carey Goldberg, Globe Staff | May 15, 2006

Explain this: An addict sweats through withdrawal. He commits to staying sober. With years of effort, he builds a life he loves. And then, one day, he passes his old shooting alley or gets pain pills from the dentist, and boom. Relapse. It all comes crashing down. By all accounts, something similar may have hit US Representative Patrick Kennedy earlier this month.

Old theories of addiction seem to fall short here. If the essence of addiction is dependence on a drug and fear of withdrawal symptoms, then why should this happen to a man who long since went through withdrawal? Or if addiction is about pleasure, why should a man embark on a course that will surely bring nothing but pain?

Last week, brain scientists gathered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology batted around a newer theory that could fit a few more pieces into the puzzle and is already spurring experiments on new potential treatments.

The idea is that addiction may be a form of ''extreme memory" or ''pathological learning." And that addiction can be so potent and persistent because it takes over learning processes in the brain that are central to humans' very survival.

The brain evolved to identify essentials such as food or water and to record exactly how they can be reached, said Dr. Steven E. Hyman, a neuroscientist who is provost of Harvard University. And when it finds -- or even only expects to find -- such essentials, the chemical messenger dopamine is released. Its job in the brain is to say: ''This is very important; let's remember exactly how we did this."

Even though they provide no benefit to the body, drugs can usurp that system, he said, by releasing dopamine -- so much dopamine, in fact, that little else can compete, leading addicts' brains to ''overlearn" the false message that drugs are good.

Those surges of dopamine, the theory goes, contribute to the laying down of long-term memories and associations that remodel the connections in the brain and can last forever. MORE (http://www.boston.com/news/globe/health_science/articles/2006/05/15/addictions_grip_now_seen_as_extreme_memory/)

July 20th, 2006, 09:34 PM
Thanks so very much RJ for sharing this with us. My experience with relapse is that it really seems to come out of nowhere and against all logic. I find this research fascinating.

July 22nd, 2006, 04:53 AM
When I was beginning to look around for help I saw somethink about this on a UK web site. I had already found MWO and liked the thought of moderating my drinking. then I read that the brain never forgets addiction and this set me back really. I know from personal experience this is true. Having stopped drinking before and then kidding myself that i could just have one or two glasses of wind. now I am back to square one.

any way you may be interested in the article I read. the web site is www.dryoutnow.com (http://www.dryoutnow.com), click on Free Books, and download HOW TO ENJOY LIFE WITHOUT ALCOHOL PART 1.. Chapter two addresses this topic., entitled Should you drink less or stop completely.

or even one or two glasses of wine!! (which always gives me wind anyway!)

August 17th, 2006, 01:11 AM
It reminds me of when I quit smoking years ago. Then I was painting a room one day and had a huge urge for a cigarette. I had quit smoking already for over 2 years. Probably hadn't had a strong urge for a year or more. I asked myself where that came from. The best I could figure was that I always took cigarette breaks when I painted and since this was the first time since I quit my brain remembered and was looking for a cigarette. Just find it interesting.--headless

August 18th, 2006, 05:59 PM
Interesting as I have heard that NLP addresses that "memory" from so long ago, and on many different levels.

August 18th, 2006, 06:27 PM
Weird but v interseting...i had such a disturbed childhood that i began sniffing solvents (on my own) at the age of about 10 just to get some kind of oblivion to what was going on around me.
Maybe my brain now sees this as the norm an thats where the drinking addiction has come from....i think that maybe its been such a long time since i was mentaly normal (if if ever was) that i dont know what normal is anymore.....or maybe im just scared of normal cause normal means you'll get hurt. ive come so far an im determined not to go back, its jus so hard....how can you at the age of 29 remember things that happened when you were just a baby??? an if bein sober makes me remember these things then maybe i should jus drink....oh im so sorry guys ignore the deep serious rant, jus fell asleep early an had the same nightmare agiain..thing is, i know its not a nightmare..cept theres nothing i can do bout it now other than face these demons head on...hopefully with the support from you guys i can beat them

Lou-Lou x

August 27th, 2006, 01:01 PM

It's so sad about your childhood. Nothing can change that. Even if you achieve oblivion for a while. it will all still be there waiting. So we all have to confront our demons. That's why we are here on this board. To support each other. So good luck and a hug for you.


August 28th, 2006, 11:25 AM
Hey Lou-Lou
I hope with our help you can face these things in your past, sweetheart....it sounds as though you have had some real difficulties....I am here to listen if you want to talk....
Love always

September 11th, 2006, 01:09 AM
thanks rj very interesting. feel sorry for the lab rats though.amazing that i will posion my self no prob but dont you touch that rat. things that make you go hmmmmm


October 14th, 2006, 12:52 PM
That article makes more sense to me than anything I've read on addiction.

Thanks, RJ.

November 15th, 2006, 12:34 PM

So is there an answer?

May 29th, 2007, 07:25 PM
This is very interesting. I am planning to see my doc on Friday and hopefully start on Naltrexone. I found an interesting article on Naltrexone (not sure whether to believe it or not), but it suggests that Naltrexone is more effective if you do occasionally take a drink on it. Because Naltrexone prevents you from feeling the high or buzz, by taking a drink once in awhile, it will contradict what your brain expects and you will create new associations w/alcohol. As in, you will learn to think of it as a drink that makes you tired or clumsy, but not high, buzzed, or good.