Neuroscientist: To Fight Opioid Addiction, Tackle Loneliness


From The Washington Post: “Feeling lonely? Social isolation isn’t just bad for your mood — it can be bad for your health, too. And in a TEDxMidAtlantic talk, Rachel Wurzman says it contributes to opioid addiction — fueling drug use, relapses and overdoses.

Wurzman, a neuroscientist, says she thinks there is a way to make recovery from opioid addiction easier: social connection. That idea is informed by her work with the striatum, a region at the base of the forebrain that helps enable decision-making and is dramatically affected by social connection.

Called the brain’s autopilot, the striatum can also trigger compulsive behaviors, such as repeated drug use. Social isolation leaves the striatum in a hypersensitive state, she says, one in which people are more likely to chase a quick reward. The brain can translate loneliness into literal pain, says Wurzman, and that can have disastrous consequences.

‘If we don’t have the ability to connect socially, we are so ravenous for our social neurochemistry to be rebalanced, we’re likely to seek relief from anywhere,’ she says. ‘And if that anywhere is opioid painkillers or heroin, it is going to be a heat-seeking missile for our social reward system.'”

Article →

Support MIA

MIA relies on the support of its readers to exist. Please consider a donation to help us provide news, essays, podcasts and continuing education courses that explore alternatives to the current paradigm of psychiatric care. Your tax-deductible donation will help build a community devoted to creating such change.

Select Payment Method
Personal Info

Credit Card Info
This is a secure SSL encrypted payment.

Billing Details

Donation Total: $20 One Time