by Paige Ridley
Daniel Lende focuses chapter thirteen on addiction and how it relates to neuroanthropology. An addiction is defined as having cravings, desires and urges but addiction can also lead to very extreme measures causing problematic situations for both the individual as well as members of their immediate friend and family circles. Lende hones in on the very core of addiction; compulsive desires and the repetitive use of drug habits.
Lende’s purpose of this chapter is to begin to understand how addiction effects an individual’s neurological process within their own cultural niche. Compulsive involvement not only leads to destructiveness but it also is directly “defined by the neurocultural dynamics of desire and habit” (Pg. 340).Lende takes an ethnographical approach as he noted that addiction is sought out to be a problem that is associated with involvement. Addiction is often thought about as feeding one’s pleasure but as Lende continues his research on addictions he finds this not to be as accurate.
Addiction cannot be summed up in a simple definition as it is very complex in its own right. Addiction does not only affect a certain area of the brain but travels through the brain’s neural circuit disrupting motions, memories and choices of individuals which in turn creates a social complexity. Addiction changes the way that individuals perceive themselves and how their actions mirror their thoughts. Addiction runs a certain path starting with the “basal parts of the brain” that regulate body activation, continues “through the limbic circuits” that control emotions and process information that is within our cultural environments finally reaching its destination at the “frontal cortices that perform higher-order cognition and control” (Pg.342).
Substance abuse interferes with many aspects in life including abandonment of family and social obligations such as jobs that were in fact very prominent before substance abuse began to take a toll. Families are constantly being ripped apart all because of an addiction. Substance abuse alters ones capability to make informed decisions that allow individuals to control their behavior.
Incentive Salience is defined by Robinson and Berridge as being distinguishable, it encompasses declarative goals and has explicit expectations of future outcomes which in turn are controlled by the cortical circuits of the brain. Incentive salience is used to describe an urge for something that is later turned into a sudden realization that they need to fulfill their desires at that very instance. Incentive salience is not the sole component of addiction but it does in fact play a big role. It is important to note that salience drives addictions that turn into repetitive addiction behaviors. Salience cues a form of motivation and is rewarded when the action is complete as the body is content for a moment in time.
Lende’s study takes place in Colombia where he works with adolescents and tries to understand their motives behind their addiction. Many adolescents feel that their family is against their every move so they turn to drugs as an outlet. This outlet allows them to associate with others who feel the very same way and it creates a bond of acceptance. When the individual feels they are accepted they long to feel that way again and are very anxious for the next appointed time. Once addicted that is all they can think about. Their motives get them through the day with the idea that they will reward themselves with a chosen substance. Addictions allow individuals to feel in control of their environments even when they are not. Salience causes one to seek out a place where one feels important for who they are.
Addictions are habits that become routine. Habits like addictions are caused by internal motivations. They are goal oriented with a short term future. Addiction behaviors are linked to the ventral and dorsal striatum. Once the researchers began to understand the linkage between the ventral and dorsal striatum it highlighted the actions that the brain performs again and again. One must place themselves in the thought processes of an addict to fully understand the motives and drives behind doing so.
Part of the ethnographic research ties back in the idea of having brains in the wild as conducting such an experiment in the laboratory would change the outcome of the data. The drug addicts need to be in their own environments for proper documentation. The results of this study portray that “social interaction among young users were actually one of the main motivators and rewards for people with deep involvement in that setting” (Pg. 355).
I find this article very interesting but very relatable simultaneously. Involvement is a key factor when trying to find one’s place within a given group. A key factor of involvement is being with like-minded individuals who have the same aspirations in life. Coming from a high school with several drug addicts this particular article stood out and made me question whether or not I made these individuals feel as if they were valued. Should I have included them more?
In one of the other readings last week about PTSD it talked about preventing it before it ever happened. Is there a way to reach out to young kids letting them know they are not alone and that there are other alternatives besides drugs which they can turn to?