How isolation fuels opioid addiction?

Based on Ted Talk by Rachel Wurzman (Neuroscientist), though her non-profit SeekHealing, Rachel Wurzman aims to reduce opioid overdose rates by building communities that are inherently resilient to addition.

Main Points:

  • The way we treat addiction isn’t working for everyone
  • Fact: People suffering from addiction have lost free will when it comes to their behavior around their addictions such as drugs, alcohol, food or other reward-system stimulating behaviors.
  • Not everything we do as entirely voluntary.
  • The brain’s default state is really more like a car idling in drive than a car in park. Some of what we think we choose to do is actually things that we have become programmed to do when the brakes are released. Have you ever joked that your brain was running on autopilot? Guess what? It probably was. OK? And the brain’s autopilot is in a structure called the striatum.
  • Striatum detects emotional and sensory motor conditions and it knows to trigger whatever behavior you have done most often in the past under those same conditions.
  •  The striatum and opioid signaling in it has been deeply linked with loneliness meaning when we don’t have enough signaling at opioid receptors, we can feel alone in a room full of people we care about and love, who love us.
  • Loneliness is very dangerous
  • Think of it like this: when you’re at your hungriest, pretty much any food tastes amazing, right? So similarly, loneliness creates a hunger in the brain which neurochemically hypersensitizes our reward system. And social isolation acts through receptors for these naturally occurring opioids and other social neurotransmitters to leave the striatum in a state where its response to things that signal reward and pleasure is completely, completely over the top. And in this state of hypersensitivity, our brains signal deep dissatisfaction. We become restless, irritable and impulsive
  • Being of service lets people connect
  • We need to practice social connective behaviors instead of compulsive behaviors, when we’re lonely, when we are cued to remember our drugs.
  • Social media can’t go deep enough for social connectivity. Social media doesn’t so much encourage us to share, as it does to compare.
  • When we connect around what’s broken, we connect as human beings. We heal ourselves from the compulsive self-destruction that was our response to the pain of disconnection.When we think of neuropsychiatric illnesses as a spectrum of phenomenon that are part of what make us human, then we remove the otherness of people who struggle with self-destruction. We remove the stigma between doctors and patients and caregivers. We put the question of what it means to be normal versus sick back on the spectrum of the human condition.

Categories: Personal Development

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