Introduction of Dr. Ruwan Jayatunge: Healing the Addiction Memory
Dr. Ruwan Jayatunge has contributed several articles to our blog, NeuroNotes, on traumaticbraininjury.net. I recently had the opportunity to read his article on addiction, and wanted to share it with our readers at brookhavenhospital.com. Upon reading Dr. Jayatunge’s article, I was reminded of Eric Kandel’s piece some years ago: Psychotherapy and the Single Synapse, in which Kandel hypothesized that the brain changed (learned) through exposure at the level of a single cell. The neuroscientists he cited took Kandel’s work forward quite a bit. The piece also brought to mind Marcel Proust’s descriptions of the smells emanating from the bakery below the Paris apartment where he grew up as among the most powerful of his memories. Proust was certainly more artistic than science oriented, but he does describe the process of learning effectively from a neurological and sensory perspective.
In the treatment of addiction we are faced with a powerful disorder of physical cravings and psychological cravings which are possibly fueled by memory. There is also a level of social reinforcement occurring outside of the individual in which one can see the effects of social influence through peer network involvement and sub-culture membership. After attending a number of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings with staff and patients, I have come to regard the power of AA at the level of the peer culture to be significant for some people in terms of maintaining sobriety. It is interesting that AA does not consider addiction as “curable”, but rather a disease that the person manages actively through controlling the behavioral symptoms. The technologies of treatment you cited certainly give rise to the potential to treat the symptoms more effectively. Can durability of results over the course of time be demonstrated? AA and similar groups contend that ongoing reinforcement and support is needed.
I also continue to wonder if addiction is a disease entity of its own and perhaps should be better regarded as a symptom of another psychological illness(es) and the behavior(s) that we see the person engage in related to drug use better understood as self-medication. The study of the connection between addition and maladaptive schemas seems to support this theory of self-medication. Addiction is a complex process and a complex disease. We appreciate Dr. Ruwan Jayatunge for sharing his article and insights.
Click here to read Dr. Ruwan Jayatunge’s article, “Healing the Addiction Memory.”