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Author Topic: If a drug addict develops amnesia, do they forget their addiction?  (Read 4844 times)

Offline kdlynn

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if someone was addicted to something, heroine just for example, and they got amnesia, would they forget about the addiction? after all, aren't most addictions like that physical as well as mental? just curious.
« Last Edit: 04/06/2007 22:47:27 by chris »


 

another_someone

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Amnesia is the forgetting of facts, not the forgetting of habits.

I suppose one might consider a situation where they might forget that they are addicted, but that is not the same as ceasing to be addicted (it would not protect you from withdrawal symptoms, although it might mean that you fail to understand why you are suffering withdrawal symptoms).
 

Offline kdlynn

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so do you think it is possible for someone to remember drug use but not who they are or where they are from? could they know when they experienced the withdrawal symptoms what they were withdrawaling from?
 

another_someone

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so do you think it is possible for someone to remember drug use but not who they are or where they are from? could they know when they experienced the withdrawal symptoms what they were withdrawaling from?

You have to separate learned behaviour from factual recollection.

It is quite possible for a professional pianist to forget he is a professional pianist (which is a fact) yet remember how to play the piano (which is learned behaviour).

To forget learned behaviour would be to forget how to walk (walking is something one learned as a very young child, and is a habit one has not forgotten since then, and most people who have amnesia do not forget how to walk - although they may forget where it is they ought to be walking to).
 

Offline kdlynn

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ok this is how the whole question started. i was watching a movie and the girl had amnesia and i was thinking that if i couldn't remember anything about... anything that i'd probably need a cigarette pretty badly. (i'm cutting back and trying to quit so that's all i can think about right now) but then i didn't know if i'd know that i needed a cigarette. thanks george.
 

Offline Karen W.

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That was a good question!
 

Offline chris

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Unfortunately addicts don't forget their addictions because the addiction is a physical dependence on an exogenous (meaning outside the body) chemical.

At the level of the brain, when an individual is dependent on a drug the part of the brain in which that drug has an effect alters its responsiveness to the chemical.

So, if someone is hooked on opiates then nerve cells knock down the number of chemical docking stations (called receptors) that they display for opiate chemicals. This is to normalise the signal that the cell receives; it has become used to far more opioid being present than there should be, so it cuts down the receptor density to keep the total signalling the same.

But, when the exogenous supply of opiates (heroin, methadone or fentanyl for instance) is reduced now there it too little stimulation of the receptors, and the patient experiences withdrawal until they replace the drug. For most addicts on heroin the drug ceases to produce pleasant effects after a few uses and they have to take it merely to avoid feeling ill. In this respect it's effectively like medicine. In an attempt to recapture the "highs" of when they first tried the drug some addicts up the amount they take. Unfortunately this often causes cardio-respiratory depression and they die.

But, if an addict rehabilitates and ceases to abuse the drug then eventually their receptor density returns to normal and they can function and feel normal without the drug again. That said, there is a problem of "rapid reinstatement" whereby an old addict rapidly relapses and re-establishes their old dependence much more quickly that someone freshly exposed to a drug, if they return to their old habit. That's why we say "once an alcie always an alcie" because the same's true of booze.

Chris
 

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