I stumbled upon an article today regarding addiction, an area of study that has been of interest for many years. The research conducted at Indiana University examined the possibility that structural changes in the amygdala may be responsible for the co-morbidity of addiction and mental illness. Those who are familiar with addiction or have worked with addicts know just how often this combination occurs.
The study compared the behaviour of adult rats that had both undergone surgery on their amygdala during infancy. One group had their amydalas damaged while the control group’s amygdalas were left intact. The control group experienced a type of mock surgery.
Interestingly, those that grew up with damaged amygdalas showed more response to novel stimuli, less fear to elevated mazes, continued social activity in the presence of a predator’s scent, were more sensitive to cocaine after only one exposure, and demonstrated consistency of behaviour changes with repeated cocaine injections. All conditions are stated to have remained constant; therefore results are directly related to the amygdala.
This proposes that the structure of the brain can affect vulnerability to drug addiction. Also, with regards to dual diagnosis it suggests that this vulnerability to addiction more effectively explains the high rates of addicts suffering from other mental illnesses as opposed to drug use causing mental illness.
This seems to suggest that a better response to treat mental illness is to reduce pharmacological treatment, a position that I have held from day one of my studies in psychology.