Understanding Medical Problems

Improve Self-Control And Reduce Drug Seeking By Stimulating The Prefrontal Cortex

One of the hallmarks of addiction is the inability to control consumption of the desired substance. At some point, the addicted person will become unable to stop seeking and consuming the drug, alcohol, or other addictive substance, and part of this is due to a damaged prefrontal cortex. Here's more information about this issue and what you can do to help improve the problem.

Prefrontal Cortex Regulates Self-Control

The prefrontal cortex –the area at the front of the brain— is involved in planning, decision-making, and moderating social behavior. In the beginning of an addiction, this area of the brain helps you control how much of the addictive substance you consume and when you indulge in it.

Over time, though, the body begins producing less dopamine each time you consume the addictive substance. In addition to triggering you to consume more of the substance to obtain the same high, the reduced production of dopamine causes a corresponding decrease in activity in the prefrontal cortex. As a result, your ability to control yourself and your actions become greatly compromised until you're unable to stop yourself from getting high, drunk, or binge eating.

A dysfunctional prefrontal cortex is one of the reasons why overcoming an addiction is difficult and why it's so easy to relapse, especially early in the treatment process. Thus, stimulating the area can improve your sense of self-control and help you stay on track.

Researchers confirmed this theory while conducting a study on rats addicted to cocaine. After subjecting a group of compulsive drug-seeking rats to a special light that stimulated neuronal activity in the prefrontal cortex, almost all the racks reduced their compulsive cocaine consumption.

Ways to Stimulate the Prefrontal Cortex

While it's true humans are a different species in rats, they share enough biological similarities that studies involving them can provide some insight into how humans are likely to respond. In this case, stimulating activity in your prefrontal cortex may make it easier to control your reactions to your drug or alcohol cravings and increase your chances of successfully beating the addiction.

There are several ways you can boost activity in your prefrontal cortex and boost your self-control. One of the best options is to practice mindfulness through meditation. This mental exercise has been proven to increase impulse control and self-awareness as well as reduce stress, and regularly practicing this activity for as little as 8 weeks can produce results.

Practicing good nutrition can also help improve prefrontal cortex activity. High-fat, high-sugar, and high-salt foods have been shown to produce the same type of dopamine response as consuming drugs and alcohol. Thus, reducing your consumption of these foods and following a plant-based, whole foods diet can improve your health and your willpower.

There are other things that can help you stimulate your prefrontal cortex. For more information about this and other treatment options for overcoming an addiction, contact an individual addiction treatment center.