Drug Abuse Does Not Necessarily Cause Self-Control Problems

Drug Abuse Does Not Necessarily Cause Self-Control Problems

Making the decision to abuse illicit substances involves a series of actions and reactions in the brain. Often, our impulses encourage us to engage in riskier behavior, or actions that will cause us immediate pleasure despite long-term negative repercussions.

Being able to ignore these impulses and make rational decisions is a form of self-control. While drug addiction is commonly associated with individuals with poorer self-control than the majority of the population, scientists are trying to figure out the exact relationship between the two.

Previous Assumptions

A commonly held belief is that long-term substance abuse can lead to a decline in an individual’s ability to implement self-control. Some studies have also indicated that individuals with preexisting self-control issues are more likely to develop a drug abuse habit to begin with.

Drug addiction and impulse control have a complicated relationship, but recent developments are challenging the previously held assumption that chronic drug abuse leads to a weakened impulse control.

In an effort to better understand the mechanisms in the brain responsible for impulses and related decision-making, scientists are studying activity in the brains of addicts.

The Latest Research

Recent research reveals that abnormalities in the brain linked to self-control issues existed prior to any form of drug abuse. Implemented and funded by the University of Cambridge, the study observed 50 pairs of siblings. Each pair consisted of one sibling that was suffering from an addiction to cocaine, and another who had no recorded history of drug abuse. Each participant in the trial underwent a brain scan to determine any physiological differences in the portion of the brain responsible for self-control.

The results of the study showed that both siblings of each pair tend to share similar brain abnormalities, making it more difficult for the brain’s control center and emotional center to communicate effectively.

This means the participants’ brains take a longer period of time to process an impulse and efficiently stop it. This research indicates that the brain developments causing self-control problems are present before any drug abuse, and individuals with these brain developments may be predisposed to developing a stimulant addiction.

Significance And Future Studies

Scientists believe that these findings lend evidence to the fact that poor impulse control is an inherited quality, and though it may make it more difficult for individuals to exert direct control over their impulses, it does not necessarily mean they are susceptible to a form of addiction.

With this discovery, researchers may now delve deeper into how self-control problems manifest with the hope of one day finding a means to strengthen this self-control. Scientists may be able to conduct brain scans to reveal which individuals have the most difficulty with impulse control, and develop new methods of training and possible treatment to strengthen the cerebral communication that leads to greater self-control.

Self-control isn’t as directly influenced by drug abuse as previously imagined. But the complex relationship between self-control and drug addiction continues to attract curiosity, as efforts to understand it in the scientific community continue.

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