How does addiction and drug use impact the brain?

Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by changes in the brain which result in a compulsive desire to use a drug. In addition, exposure to alcohol before birth causes a spectrum of life-long damage and disability. Addiction is not limited to substance abuse however. Pathological gambling, for example, is thought to involve dysfunction of dopaminergic circuits in the brain. As the target of addiction, brain cells react to stimuli and those reactions lead to changes in movement, thought, feelings and memory.

Utilizing electroencephalogram (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques in humans, researchers at the CCBN hope to open a window on the inner workings of the addicted brain. New technologies are providing tools for investigating conditions such as addiction, and they offer hope that successful interventions can be developed to help alleviate the effects. In addition, a comprehensive approach is being undertaken to identify current best evidence relevant to the primary, secondary and tertiary prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.