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Visual Cues in Addiction: Open Your Eyes to a New Answer

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council or BBSRC recently conducted a study to further understand addictive behavior. Needless to say, this aspect of a person’s behavior plays a significant role in his propensity for substance abuse, whether it’s alcohol or drug addiction. Previously, experts thought that a person’s addictive behavior is influenced most by visual stimuli, or the sight of the object of addiction. The recent findings discovered that though processes may play an even bigger role than this visual stimuli. Before, experts though that a visual presence of a certain stimulus is enough for the person to develop a bad habit. However, recent findings are stating that the visual presence does no more than offer information regarding the availability of that object and does not necessarily affect the decision of the person to consume.

The mind of an addict

According to Professor Theodora Duke of University of Sussex that a chemically dependent person needs only to look at a visual cue that represents the substance he is addicted before he starts to conduct decision-making processes in his brain. For instance, let’s say that an alcoholic person sees a bar. It’s not as easy as saying that the bar triggered the person’s addiction to alcohol. It’s more precise to say that even if the person saw the bar only momentarily (perhaps on his way home from work) he immediately and rapidly tries to make a decision as to whether he should go in for a drink or not. Obviously, the bar is merely a representative of alcoholic drinks which are valuable to an alcoholic.

Fighting temptation

Because of these findings, some experts are suggesting that preventing a person from responding to visual cues may be a key answer that can be used in drug addiction treatment. However, University of Nottingham’s Dr. Lee Hogart refutes this by saying that it may not be as simple as that. As an example, he points to a person who is scanning the menu of a restaurant. To make his decision, he creates a mental image of the dish and evaluates how much he craves or likes it. After scanning the entire menu, he settles for the dish that he wants most at the time, and not necessarily on the item that he spent the most time looking at. According to Hogart, the answer does not lie eliminating the visual stimuli but decreasing the value that the patient attaches to that stimuli.

Miramar is a rehabilitation center that works towards that goal. If you or someone close to you is suffering from chemical dependence, give us a call today.

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