99Relapses Podcast Episode #21 Part II- The Addicted Brain (Structure)
Hi, I’m James Egidio , your host of the 99Relapses podcast, the podcast that moves you from recovery to discovery through the grace and mercy of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. This is episode number 21 part 2 titled. The Addicted Brain Structure. In this episode and the next few episodes, I will discuss the addicted brain and talk about the structure of the brain, as well as finish up this series, discussing the function of the addicted brain.
But just to recap, episode number 20, I discussed how God had, gifted and created you with a super computer, a brain. A brain that can process information at 268 miles per hour. Faster than a indie race car. And a brain that has a storage capacity that has considered virtually unlimited. Which has one quadrillion or 1000 trillion connections. It’s a super computer encased in your skull. So much so that we are the only mammalian species, as I had mentioned, as well that has the ability to comprehend God’s word, meditate on God’s word. In this episode of the addicted brain part two structure, I will briefly outline the actual areas or structure of the brain that plays a role in addiction.
When you talk about the brain, when it comes to addiction, you have to focus on two main areas of the brain and that is the neocortex otherwise known as the front of the head or the brain. And this functions to receive and store information for decision-making and memory. This is where the memory comes in.
The other important area of the brain. Which is even more instrumental in addiction is called the limbic system. The Limbic system is also known as the heart of the brain and controls all of the automatic systems of the body and the emotions. Most importantly, the limbic system controls what is called the survival response. And you’ve probably heard of this before. It’s called the fight or flight response as well as a pleasure and reward center.
Anytime you indulge in anything that’s pleasurable, whether it’s food or sex or whatever it is. The Limbic system is the one that’s responsible for that. That feel good. Pleasure and reward center. This a fight or flight response, what the Limbic system initiates a protective response to defend yourself from both physical and emotional harm. So you’re in a situation where walking in a dark alley. And you were like hypervigilant and you’re very aware of your surroundings. That’s the limbic system and the limbic system controls the survival response. The fight or flight response. Unlike, of course the neocortex, which stores. Memory, the limbic system does not really have a memory like the neocortex. In fact. The neocortex doesn’t even know the difference between yesterday and 30 years ago Which explains why some of our childhood traumas actually still Trigger us so powerfully today.
But it is the limbic system that is most effected by our beliefs, our behaviors and our addiction.
If you’ve been listening to the 99 relapses podcast I discussed belief systems in episodes, number 15 and 17 as well. As discussed identity. And addiction where I emphasize that we’re not to self identify through people, places and things, but only God and God only. And these emotions and beliefs all stem from the limbic system in the brain. So once you get a better understanding about the structure and function of the brain in episodes, 20 through 23, You’ll have a better grasp moving forward with. The past episodes, which are episodes two through 19, and then even moving forward after episode 23.
And as I had mentioned. From the beginning. When I launched the 99 relapses podcasts. I said that each episode builds upon itself. So it’s really imperative that You’ll listen to each episode in sequence because, like I said, they do build upon each other. As you can see so far, the addictive substance or behavior is only one part of the equation when it comes to addiction.
It is the brain. The computer system of the human body that God gifted us. that is instrumental on how we process our thoughts, our decisions, and ultimately our behavior. And of course it’s the limbic system that becomes negatively programmed through traumatic experiences.
And then prime example of that. Is let’s say for instance, You grew up in a dysfunctional family where you’re experiencing emotional, physical, or even sexual abuse. It’s the addictive substance, like drugs, alcohol and other compulsive behaviors that have programmed the limbic system to avoid the awareness of uncomfortable thoughts and feelings from let’s say the past. So instead of making healthy, Choices and responses to resolve that fear you avoid the fear through let’s say abusive behavior. drugs , alcohol or pornography or whatever it may be. And I’ll be discussing the function of the limbic system in the next couple episodes. Episodes 22 and 23.
So you see there’s this physical component, which is the structure of the brain, specifically the limbic system within the brain that manifest the psychological. Or behavior which is fear, anxiety. And rebellion, which creates the sin. And I mentioned that in previous episodes, that addiction is sin. When I have coached and counsel clients in the past. I’ve always taken more of a. Like a body mind and spirit approach. In the spirit approach a Jesus centered approach to sobriety. It’s not. Idolatry. Type approach it’s a total Jesus centered approach. It’s a biblical approach.
And the brain should process. In the spirit around the Trinity or Triune, which is the Father, God Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, living within us. And I’ve mentioned this in previous episodes that because the holy spirit lives within us.
When we engage in addiction, we are literally defiling the holy spirit that lives within us and the question is, and you may ask yourself how important is having the holy spirit in dwelt with us? And this is how Jesus Christ described it in
Matthew 12:30-32. Jesus says, so I tell you. Every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven. Except blasphemy against the holy spirit which will never be forgiven. Anyone who speaks against the son of man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the holy spirit will never be forgiven. Either in this world or in the world to come.
So keeping this in mind we have to change the way we think. With our brain which is also found in scripture in
Romans 12:2, which reads don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person. By changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
So you see. It’s the limbic system. That’s instrumental. In our behaviors and how we process that information from. Let’s say early childhood trauma, stress or anxiety and then what it does is it leads to these addictive behaviors.
I’m going to take a short commercial break. But when I come back, I’ll talk about the micro structures in the brain. 📍
Okay, welcome back to the 99Relapses podcast. Before I took the commercial break, I spoke about. The limbic system in a little bit more detail. And now I would like to conclude this episode of the 99 relapses podcast by finishing up the last half of this podcast with discussing the micro structures of the brain that play the important role in the function of addiction.
That is the a brain cell otherwise known as the neuron or neurons. And this is within the brain and that within the limbic system and within the brain itself. Just to put things in perspective, the neuron at the cellular level, as I mentioned in episode number 20. Is a piece of brain tissue, the size of a grain of sand and contains about a hundred thousand neurons with 1 billion synapses.
And of course there’s many of these neurons Multitude of them. And each neuron can be considered a living being in its own, right with its own unique life experience. Which has its own energy activity, rhythms, and is even capable of movement and reproduction. And of course, course each neuron consumes nutrients, breaths oxygen. It gives off carbon dioxide and other waste.
So it’s has a life form of its own. And it also responds to a wide variety of electrical, magnetic, chemical, and vibratory stimuli. Think of the neuron as a complex electrical wiring. And as I mentioned that wiring again has a myelin sheath that lipid layer that wraps around that neuron that nerve fiber in order to help propagate the conduction of the nerve to initiate the nerve impulse. And at the end of this wiring, each one, are connected and communicate with another wire or neuron a structure called a synapse. An average neuron contains about 20,000 of these connections with other cells at the synapse connection.
And at this connection, the axon of one cell releases a chemical, and I’m sure you may or may not have heard of it. It’s called the neurotransmitter. And these chemicals that are released, these neurotransmitter chemicals are serotonin and dopamine. And they’re considered the feel good. Neurotransmitters. And they’re released to communicate with other neurons in order for a nerve impulse to occur in the brain. And foreign substances and chemicals such as cocaine and methamphetamine and nicotine and other drugs. Also reach these neuro receptors through the bloodstream in these chemicals are of course. Powerful influences on these neurons. And you’ve probably seen. Commercials on television, I’m sure for a pharmaceutical antidepressants.
And these Pharmaceutical antidepressants work at this level of the brain. They the term serotonin re-uptake inhibitor. For anti-depressants creates a delay in the re-uptake or recycling of the serotonin back into a neuron because there’s a complex biochemical reaction where when the neurotransmitter’s released from one neuron or the end of one neuron to another and to communicate.
The serotonin that’s released is usually re uptake. And brought back into the original. Synapse. And it communicates. With the neuron to fire a nerve impulse in the brain. And so that delay with the antidepressants allows the serotonin to stay continue to fire. And that’s what helps with depression. I mentioned two of the most common neuro-transmitters Serotonin and Dopamine, but there’s approximately about 30 different neuro transmitter chemicals. So there’s a multitude of neurotransmitter chemicals and It’s a lot more complex for this discussion.
All thoughts and feelings and all sensations and memories are mediated by the transmission of these electrical, chemical energies. Along the bodies and fibers of these nerve cells and across these synapses. So any time. Someone uses drugs or alcohol they disrupt the biochemistry of these neurotransmitter chemicals, for example. Stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine. Create an overload of neurotransmitter chemicals. And it creates the opposite effect at some point when someone quits using. So they’ll go into, what’s called a methamphetamine crash or a cocaine crash where they’ll just sleep. And they’ll just crash for days. And here’s the thing to keep in mind, these unique patterns of each mental function. Are determined by which nerve cells and synapses are active and in what sequence and what neurotransmitter chemicals are released and received.
So this is a very complex system. And of course, this is just an overview. But in the following episodes, I’ll discuss the function of the addicted brain and how it influences behavior.
Please join me in these next two episodes. Episode number 22 and 23. As I continue this four part series on the function of the addicted brain. Thank you so much again.
For Past podcast episodes. episode’s show notes, memory verses and recovery lessons and tools. You can go to the 99Relapses.org website. That’s the number 99Relapses.org. And also if you’d like to make. A prayer request for yourself, family or friends. Please do not hesitate to email me your prayer request at 99Relapses.org and do not forget to like me on Facebook. I appreciate that.
And if you have an interesting story to share about how God has changed your life through addiction or recovery. Or you’re an expert in the field of Christian addiction and recovery, or have published a Christian book or a podcast or website, and would like to be featured as a guest on the 99 relapses podcast. Please email me anytime at james@99Relapses.org. And I will respond within 24 to 48 hours. And again, thank you for listening to this episode of the 99 relapses podcast. God Bless