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Science Tries to Flip the Addiction Switch and Succeeds

Researchers at Scripps have discovered what they’re calling an addiction switch. When the addiction switch is on, cravings follow. When the switch is off, cravings are diminished or non-existent. Even withdrawal symptoms gave way when the addiction switch was turned off.

The population, in this case, consisted of alcohol-dependent rats. The tool to flip the addiction switch is a laser. Researchers used lasers to target a specific region of the rats’ brain. The procedure is not available for humans as of yet.

Science Daily reported the following: 

“This discovery is exciting — it means we have another piece of the puzzle to explain the neural mechanism driving alcohol consumption,” says Olivier George, Ph.D., an associate professor at Scripps Research and senior author of the new study, published March 18, 2019, in the journal Nature Communications. (see

Mirroring the Addiction Switch in Real Life

Interestingly, as science acts directly on the brain, the softer sciences are at work developing addiction treatment models that mirror the process. The assumption is that addiction comes on like an emotional hijacking. A trigger of some sort goes off and your entire attitude changes.

“Screw it! I’m having a drink.”

You know that attitude? How many addictive behaviors are preceded by “Screw it!” Screw it and other sudden attitude shifts can lead to impulsive, destructive decisions. And it does play out as if someone flipped an internal switch and an “inner addict” surfaces. That inner addict has nothing in common with the you that swore to abstain today.

Emotional hijacking. How do we keep that switch from flipping?

Better yet, how do we avoid giving in to the demand to use after the switch is flipped? Books like Rational Recovery. These approaches psychologically mirror the addiction switch process by using psychological phenomena. The key, according to rational recovery, is to create psychological distance between you and your cravings (regardless of the target of those cravings).

Once distance from the cravings is achieved, it becomes much easier (it’s surprising) to simply ignore the craving impulse. summarized the process into three simple steps.

Will addiction research and treatment undergo a paradigm shift? Not likely, as the disease model of addiction has more or less taken it over (and this is not necessarily a bad thing). Still, for those willing to explore alternative approaches, the future looks interesting.



Science Tries to Flip the Addiction Switch and Succeeds

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2019). Science Tries to Flip the Addiction Switch and Succeeds. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 May 2019
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