Drug addiction is a disorder of the brain. Some types of cognitive impairments lead to drug dependence. A novel way to reduce drug dependence in addicts is by sharpening their cognitive capabilities by making them take up intellectual pursuits.
According to the findings of this study, recreational users who have not succumbed to addiction have abnormally large frontal lobes. The scientists believe that the over-abundance of gray matter in their frontal lobes helps these people keep their cravings in check. Whereas, people with cocaine dependence had significantly smaller-sized frontal lobes, which mean that their brains have less gray matter than the recreational users. Cocaine addicts have less white matter integrity in the inferior frontal and anterior cingulate regions of their brains. This impairment is known to adversely affect decision-making abilities, trigger impulsive behavior, and weaken the motivation to alter destructive habits. Cocaine-seeking behavior is associated with imbalances both within and between the frontal-striatal networks. The brains of cocaine users show abnormal enlargement of the basal ganglia, a region that is associated with the reward system.
Devising ways to increase gray matter volume and optimize white matter integrity can help addicts recover and stay away from drugs. It is not enough to make an addict go through a cognitive training program and hope that he abstains from drugs. It is also crucial that his neural reward system is rewired, so he no longer derives satisfaction from getting high on drugs. So the need of the hour is to come up with stimulating intellectual activities with ample rewards and incentives packed in, which will not only strengthen the brain to resist drugs but also make it perceive drugs as less rewarding and therefore not worth trying.