A recent study has shown that cocaine addiction and abuse can dull the brain’s sensitivity to rewards. This means that the individual will no longer feel as much pleasure from things in life that make most people happy. This research was conducted at the United States Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory. The participants included eighteen adults who were cocaine addicts along with a control group of eighteen adults who were not addicts. Similar studies have been performed in the past and discovered the same results of cocaine addicts’ brains not reacting to rewards as strongly as a healthy brain would.
One of the researchers explained that this information helps to show one reason why some people who suffer from addictions are unable to quit. Most people with drug and alcohol addictions seem oblivious to the negative consequences these problems create in their lives. When the addiction becomes severe, they no longer care whether they lose their job, face legal consequences, or damage personal relationships. This could be because their brain no longer reacts to the situation with the same intensity that it would in a non-addict.
Addicts also often cannot quit abusing alcohol or drugs, even when they are offered positive rewards and benefits for doing so. It was suggested that positive incentives are probably even less motivating for someone with this dulled sensitivity when they’re not readily available, such as the benefits of long-term addiction recovery.
The research was conducted by monitoring participants’ brain activity with electrodes. They were shown images and given a button to push in response. Researchers told them that they would earn varying amounts of money for responding quickly and correctly. They then analyzed the brain activity to see that the individuals with cocaine addiction showed less brain activity when they were offered money.