The rising number of addiction and diseases has alarmed doctors. However, neuroscience has somehow found a way to explain why such an increase is seen in today’s modern society.

The present age ushered in a host of improvements, among them better access to food, healthy lifestyles, longevity, and many more.

Nevertheless, it all wasn’t always smooth sailing. For the past three decades, suicide rates and deaths caused by excessive alcohol and drug consumption, which have been termed ‘deaths of despair,’ have risen sharply.

Deaths caused by hypertension, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes exceed these deaths of despair by about ten times. Such illnesses have been developed by patients due to the consumption of fatty and high-calorie foods that oftentimes comprise a regular American diet.

While many of these ailments are controllable, medical professionals are at a loss of why there is a rapid progression in the case of such diseases. Neuroscience explains increase in addiction and diseases. Neuroscience explains increase in addiction and diseases. Photo: Pixabay

Science has taught that over half a billion years ago, the ancestor of the human race is a marine worm with a brain.

Neuroscientists believe the key to the worm’s survival and evolution is a neural circuit that propels it to look for food, safety, and sex. Every favorable result is then rewarded with a brief surge of the neurochemical dopamine.

This chemical then provides the worm with satisfaction, causing it to pause from an activity briefly. Humans are supposed to have retained this characteristic.

In the case of drugs, however, overconsumption of unhealthy foods, drug and alcohol abuse has somehow disrupted the natural flow of the neurochemical dopamine. This activity reduced the biological circuit’s sensitivity and instead adapted to a sustained stimulation.

Neuroscientists believe the biological circuits of patients suffering from controllable illnesses are not broken. Instead, such circuits may have adapted to continued stimulation and have somehow forgotten where the pause points are.

For a long time, medical professionals have been treating patients with these illnesses with another set of drugs to trick the opioid receptors of the brain. They believe that by blocking the reward circuit of the brain, cravings toward more food, alcohol, or drugs will be reduced.

Today, neuroscientists have a different opinion. They say that the key to treating these illnesses may not lie on more drugs but on other activities that necessitate more learning and reprogramming of the natural reward system.

While this will need serious reorganization and perhaps a strong will, such actions may reduce the rates of addiction, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. Ultimately, this can also reduce the rising death rate and redefine everyone’s purpose in life.