The science of your brain on drugs
In the center of the narratives in the exhibit is a summarized explanation of how addiction affects the brain. The following is a simplified version of the explanation, pictured above.
100% of people have a brain and 100% of brains have a reward system.
The brain’s reward system is a group of neural structures that are activated when a person does something that makes them feel good or rewarded.
100% of the brain’s reward system relies on dopamine and 100% of opioids affect dopamine in the brain.
The good feelings are powered by dopamine, an important neurotransmitter in the brain that motivates and makes a person feel happy. When the brain is flooded with dopamine, which happens when using opioids, the brain naturally wants to keep a good thing going.
Therefore, 100% of people are susceptible to opioid addiction.
From the poster: “Opioids artificially override the natural flow of dopamine and flood the brain with a blast of pleasure. In the process, [opioids] hijack our reward system.” The brain learns as it goes and soon adapts to artificially high doses of dopamine, consequently building up its tolerance to the drug. Each time opioids are used, a higher dose will be needed to achieve the flood of dopamine-induced euphoria, which continues the cycle.
This is a simplified explanation of the neuroscience of addiction, but it is effective and accessible for all.