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Neurotransmitters play a key role in the development of heroin addiction

ABSTRACT

This essay explained explicitly and elaborately how neurotransmitter is been playing a pivotal role in the development of heroin addiction. It is known that drug abuse does have a serious and major effect on the functioning of health. Through this essay it was explored that neurotransmitters gets altered when any form of drug is induced in the body of the organism. It may show a hyper state of activity or serious form of withdrawal. The essay also explained the fact that the processing of the central nervous system gets altered by intake of drugs as neurotransmitters are played by heroin intake. These drugs once develop resistance; need to be taken in larger amounts to fulfill its ‘thirst’. Due to this reason, it was concluded that neurotransmitters does induce resuming in the process of talking heroin. These changes in the bodily function also affect the reward, motivation and the emotional functioning. It was also explored through the essay that due to changes in the neural system, not just health, but adverse psychological situations also take place.

‘Neurotransmitters play a key role in the development of heroin addiction.’

Neurotransmitters are those chemical substances that are emitted by the nerve endings and these endogenous chemicals help in neurotransmission. These neurotransmitters are also known as chemical messengers. They are made of amino acid precursors and play a pivotal role in shaping our everyday functioning. A behaviour that hinders our daily living can be stated to be addicting. A compulsive behaviour that takes control over mankind and in return enables the person to face excruciating suffering, is known to be addiction. It is a state of mind in which an organism is compelled to behave in a particular manner. Addiction behaviour can be rewarding or pleasurable but it does not mean that it will always be for our betterment. There are several types of addiction like tobacco, drugs, alcohol, cocaine, cannabis and last but not the least, heroin addiction or more commonly known as opioids. American Psychological Association or more commonly known as APA, defines addiction as a source, due to which an organism’s body avoids any form of psychological or physical withdrawal symptoms. Usually an addict develops what we know as tolerance towards the addicting substance and once that happens, a person needs to increase the dosage of the addictive substance. It was stated by Tomkins & Sellers in 2001 that there have been various researches that have led to such a discovery that there does lie and underline connection between neurobiological processes and drug dependence. They also added that multiple neurotransmitter systems play a primary role in the development and in the expression of drug dependence. Heroin is a form of opioid that a person, once gets addicted it becomes very hard to come out of it. With constant use, people start developing a resistance to heroin that later takes a massive toll on the individual’s health (Cadet, Bisagno & Milroy, 2014).

This essay shall identify and explain how the neurotransmitters play a key role in the development of heroin addiction. The discussion shall begin with what are neurotransmitters and what is addiction and how it can hamper our heath, followed by a brief description of heroin addiction. Lastly, this essay will focus on the role that neurotransmitters are known to play on the developing addiction of heroin.

Researchers have stated that addiction to heroin is a chronic disease which relapses and when so happens, for the affected person it becomes a compulsion to seek, abuse, and show a high level of dependence for the drug. Reports highlight that in many parts of the world, heroin addiction, till this date, is one of the most addicting addictions causing a majority of health disasters. The National Institute of Drug Abuse conducted a survey and revealed that the rate of heroin usage is becoming alarming as the days are passing. A survey was also conducted in 2013 by NIDA which revealed that drug usage is highest among people of late teens and early twenties. This survey done in 2013 exposed that young people ranging from the age range of 18 to 20 years of age had the highest that is 22.6 percent usage of illicit drugs. A bar graph will help to explain the matter more appropriately:

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Volkow, Fowler, Wang, Swanson, & Telang in 2007 explained that the neurotransmitter, Dopamine, plays a primary effect in drug abuse and in neurobiological changes leading to heroin addiction. This heroin or drug addiction is considered to be an evolution or change from a controlled social usage into a compulsive relapsing disorder (Kalivas & O'Brien, 2008). Several studies and researches over the last few years have revealed that brain circuits are extremely vulnerable to changes that are induced by drug usage. These changes are associated with the molecular and the morphology of our body. These studies have also explained that after a particular drug is induced in the body, the neurotransmitters functions in such a manner that it forces or compels the individual resume the drug intake (Kalivas & O'Brien, 2008). These intakes create a form of intoxication and play a major role in the brain stress and antistress systems. Researchers have suggested that neurotransmitters play a key role in the development factor and also in the expression of drug dependencies. There does remain a prime underlying cause between the neurotransmitters functioning and in the drug dependency. Results retort that there lies a relation between drug abuse and neurotransmitters because there is always an innate activation that takes place in the neuron circuitry once a particular type of drug is induced in our body. It is due to this reason that there develops an excitement and disinhibition in the neurotransmitters or in the neuron activity. It enhances the normal neuron drive that alters the normal functioning of the neurons (Day, Metrik, Spillane & Kahler, 2013). These psychostimulants changes the neuroadaptation either by expressing extreme hyper activity or disinhibiton (Pulvirenti, Le Moal & Koob, 2013). Studies have suggested that these drugs when intaking may excite the limbic region of the brain and thus causing excessive excitement in the body (Sørensen, Cooper, Baratta & Weng et al, 2016). Reward pathway, which is the activity-dependent synaptic plasticity of the mesolimbic dopaminergic system, is a key element in the development of the addiction. The processes of neurogenesis, synapse development and plasticity in the brain lead to the changes in the reward and anti-reward pathways which are again created through miRNAs. These miRNAs are small non-coding RNAs, within the nervous system. Now due to the interaction with the mesolimbic dopaminergic system, these reward pathways get associated with euphoria or pleasure. The continuous interaction ultimately results in persistent and strong changes in the brain centers that relate to reward and memory (Nestler, 2014). The longer the usage of heroin by the individual, the less sensitive he becomes to the drug, leading to the individual seeking higher doses and higher risks that can relate to the associated reward or memory of euphoria and pleasure (Büttner, Mall, Penning, & Weis, (2000). Heroin drug addiction plays a major disruptive role in the functioning of our central neural system. This functioning, till this date has resulted in fatal deaths. These fatal effects can be attributed to two factors where the first being its dangerous addictiveness and the second factor is due to its overdosing. It is because of these dangerous effects, it was reported in statistics that prevalence heroin use has resulted in major deaths. It was from 2000 to 2015, when it was reported that in United States, the death rate was the highest, due to the constant use of the deadly drug, heroin. This information was presented through a statistical presentation which is as follows:

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Fig 2: Bar Graph Depicting Higher Rate of Deaths Due to Drug Abuse

(Source: Digra et al., 2015)

Sulzer in 2001 clarified that heroin has the tendency to alter release probability from the presynaptic terminal, which controls the number, probability along with the size of the quantal events released in response to the neuronal activities. Neurotransmitters play a prominent role in heroin addiction as it is supported by imaging studies that show the role of dopamine in drug abuse and addiction in the human brain (Volkow, Fowler, Wang & Telang et al, 2007). The reinforcing effects of drug abuse are shown by the imaging studies to be contingent on two things such as: DA increases in the striatum; and secondly, the rate of DA increases. The imaging studies demonstrate that the faster the dopamine increases, the reinforcing effects are that stronger. Studies have also shown that when the level of dopamine are elevated in the dorsal striatum and the individual is exposed to stimuli associated with drugs, then there lies a greater and almost irresistible motivation to procure the drug. It was reported by Noël, Brevers, & Bechara, (2013) that these drug abuses propose an improper human behaviour. It results in an imbalance between the interactions of the neural systems. These imbalances lead to poor decision making and in a probable relapse of the drug usage. The study used single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) array based on an approach that uses physiological hypotheses with the selection of genes based on their function including neurotransmitters (Levran, et al., 2008). Studies on single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) have proved that there is an approach that uses the physiological hypotheses with the selection of genes based on their function including neurotransmitters. It is also known through this study that top signals are from the genes “encoding opioid receptors, a neuropeptide (galanin), a ligand-gated ion channel serotonin receptor and a kinase (Li, Guo, Wang, Liu & Zou, 2014). If we follow Koob and his findings then it can be said that these compulsions seek the drugs that are linked to the dysregulation of the brain regions, which are related to stress and rewards.

Neurotransmitters do play a pragmatic role in the development of heroin addiction. This essay did explain that why alteration takes place in addiction of heroin. Till this date there have been a lot of acceptance and credibility to those work that have successfully shown the link between the ability of drugs to alter the pathways for rewards and risk circuits, leading to addiction for drugs. There is enough evidence to demonstrate how the change in circuits affects reward, risk and memory for an individual. This leads to addiction as well as create barriers for a treatment methodology (Parsons & Prigatano, 2014). Addiction to these illicit drugs affects the human health in several forms. It affects the neural circuit that acts as a backbone in decision making, motivation, memory and several others.

In conclusion, it can be said that drug addiction such as addiction to heroin needs to be seen from the perspective of the neurological changes. It needs to be paid heed that these neurological changes are caused by the initial contact with the drug and how far the initial stages of drug abuse impact neurotransmitters to create a long lasting impression and strong addiction for the drug. Constant exposure to these substances leads to dysfunctions in the brain and ultimately resulting in critical health and psychosocial circumstances (Cadet, Bisagno & Milroy, 2014). Thus, last but not the least it can be concluded that all these studies and researches will definitely lend a helping hand in providing treatments that are responsive to the neurological changes due to the drug abuse or precisely, in this case, heroin addiction.

References

Büttner, A., Mall, G., Penning, R., & Weis, S. (2000). The neuropathology of heroin abuse. Forensic science international, 113(1), 435-442.

Cadet, J. L., Bisagno, V., & Milroy, C. M. (2014). Neuropathology of substance use disorders. Acta neuropathologica, 127(1), 91-107.

Day, A. M., Metrik, J., Spillane, N. S., & Kahler, C. W. (2013). Working memory and impulsivity predict marijuana-related problems among frequent users. Drug and alcohol dependence, 131(1), 171-174.

Dickson, P. E., Miller, M. M., Rogers, T. D., Blaha, C. D., & Mittleman, G. (2014). Effects of adolescent nicotine exposure and withdrawal on intravenous cocaine self‐administration during adulthood in male C57BL/6J mice. Addiction biology, 19(1), 37-48.

Dreyer, J.-L. (2010). New insights into the roles of microRNAs in drug addiction and neuroplasticity. Genome medicine, 2.12, 92.

Kaur, S., Rajagopalan, S., Kaur, N., Shafiq, N., Bhalla, A., Pandhi, P., & Malhotra, S. (2014). Drug utilization study in medical emergency unit of a tertiary care hospital in North India. Emergency medicine international, 2014.

Koob, G. F. (2008). A role for brain stress systems in addiction. Neuron, 59(1), 11-34. Levran, O., Londono, D., O’hara, K., Nielsen, D. A., Peles, E., Rotrosen, J., & Adelson, M. (2008). Genetic susceptibility to heroin addiction: a candidate gene association study. Genes, Brain and Behavior, 7(7), 720-729.

Li, P., Guo, M., Wang, C., Liu, X., & Zou, Q. (2014). An overview of SNP interactions in genome-wide association studies. Briefings in Functional Genomics, elu036.

Nestler, E. J. (2014). Epigenetic mechanisms of drug addiction. Neuropharmacology, 76, 259-268.

Noël, X., Brevers, D., & Bechara, A. (2013). A neurocognitive approach to understanding the neurobiology of addiction. Current opinion in neurobiology, 23(4), 632-638.

Parsons, O. A., & Prigatano, G. P. (2014). Memory functioning in alcoholics. Birnbaum IM, Parker ES, 185-194.

Sørensen, A. T., Cooper, Y. A., Baratta, M. V., Weng, F. J., Zhang, Y., Ramamoorthi, K., ... & Schneider, C. (2016). A robust activity marking system for exploring active neuronal ensembles. Elife, 5, e13918.

Sulzer, D. (2011). How addictive drugs disrupt presynaptic dopamine neurotransmission. Neuron, 69(4), 628-649.


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