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Nursing care in the
comfort of your
and psychological disorders ranging
from addiction to stroke.”
Dr. George Koob, a professor
and chair of the Committee on
Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders
at the Scripps Institute in California,
has spent his career looking at how
drugs affect brain plasticity.
“Drugs change the brain, whether
it’s with one glass of wine at dinner or
smoking a pipe of crack cocaine, and
the change begins with the first use
of the drug,” says Koob, a featured
speaker at the Alberta Family Wellness
Initiative’s Accelerating Innovation:
Telling the Brain Story to Inspire
Action this past fall in Edmonton.
As the effects of the drug wear off,
the brain presumably goes back to
normal. But with each use after, the
drug’s effect will be a little less because
your brain circuits have adjusted to it.
That habituation is a strong form of
tolerance, Koob says. It is also a form of
degenerative plasticity, because brain
cells and neural pathways can die off.
Recovery from addiction (be it
from a substance or a behaviour
such as gambling, shopping, food or
sex) depends on regenerative brain
This process is not simply a matter or
growing new brain cells: when a brain
cell is dead it’s gone forever. But the
brain can be dazzling in its ability to
rewire and compensate.
“What you do is recruit other
systems to give you a boost,” Koob
While the brain can be rewired
following addiction—or other injuries
and experiences—the process can take
years and involve intensive and costly
“What we’ve learned in neuroscience
in the past 40 or 50 years is that the
brain has that capability to be plastic,
the capability to be changing,” Koob
says. “It’s really a profound statement
because it means addiction is a brain
disorder and recovery is a brain
— Terry Bullick
for Health Program
with insulin treated
with the cost of
diabetes testing supplies
for Health Program