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What Prevents You from Quitting Drinking, Smoking and Using Drugs Forever?

26.09.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

Researchers explained why it is better to change the environment when you try to get rid of addiction, and what memory has to do with it.

It is well known that external stimuli can work like triggers causing certain reactions. In the context of the fight against various kinds of addiction, this means that some environmental factors can cause associations and forgotten emotions that can roll a person back to their old model of behaviour. This means the “external stimulus – reaction” mechanism is triggered. An external stimulus can be a shop near the house where a person often used to smoke, a liquor store next to an alcoholic’s house, a drug use device accidentally found by a former drug addict. All these items and places are completely harmless in themselves. What makes them dangerous is their ability to affect the memory function.

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Francesco Leri, a professor of psychology at the University of Guelph (Canada), found out what happens to the brain when an addict is faced with external factors from a past life. Together with his colleagues, Leri studied the brain reactions of laboratory rats. They compared the memory of the rodents to some objects in a laboratory box in three states:

  • before cocaine and nicotine injection;
  • in a state of narcotic intoxication;
  • in a “clean” state, when no drug has been left in the blood.

It turned out that the behaviour of “clean” animals, when exposed to the environment in which they were injected with narcotic drugs, was noticeably intensified in comparison with another environment. The brain reacts to situational stimuli that accompanies drug intoxication, and, as it turned out for the first time, this has a positive effect on the properties of memory.

Research on the brain and behaviour of addicted rats may have practical applications in the treatment and correction of chemically dependent behaviour in humans in order to prevent breakdowns and consequent returns to drug abuse.