On Wednesday, April 25, Bellevue College kicked off the start of the Alcohol Awareness Fair in the Cafeteria by presenting faculty member Gerald Blackburn of the Chemical Dependency Counseling Center. The speaker presented a PowerPoint in room N201 about the socially overlooked physiological realities accompanying and stifling drug addicts, which are biological intermediaries hidden to the public.
“The central nervous system works like keys and locks-a cascading system of use which leads dependence by the individual. We have 89 different genes that relate to compulsive disorders,” said Blackburn.
He describes the spiral-like process which precedes all drug addictions. A self-proclaimed former alcoholic himself, Blackburn stresses that spectators must understand this concept when confronted with a family member, acquaintance or long-time friend held hostage by their addiction.
“Chemicals become the most important thing. It is not an issue of choice, self-control, character and certainly not an issue of morality…although these factors circulate around addiction pretty consistently in terms of misconception in our society,” he said.
The route to addiction according to Blackburn is pretty simple: “The majority of drug addicts start in early adolescence because they do not have the full development of the prefrontal cortex to make these decisions.”
While he was saying this, a blue screen lit up, outlining a brain with arrows pointing to two sections of the organ. One section was the nucleus accumbens, located in the center of the brain as the headquarters of the body’s pleasure centers. Located in the forehead is the prefrontal cortex, which determines judgment and reasoning.
“Addiction is simply a state in which an organism engages in compulsive behavior (drug use) because the behavior is physiologically rewarding. Subsequently the ability to control or limit this behavior is lost.”
His anecdotal evidence and use of attaching intellectual classifications to words such as “blackout,” which he referred to as “alcohol induced amnesia,” was just one of his ways of vocalizing the severity of alcoholism.
He mapped out the stages of drug addiction throughout the PowerPoint, beginning with the trial stages where the use of the drug may be regarded as and practiced recreationally. He then describes what the screen further highlighted as the “tolerance” segment.
“It is when the central nervous system and the body physically need more of the chemical in order to get the same results,” says the speaker.
Lastly, the presentation progressed to elaborate upon the ins and outs of the “dependence” stage: “A state in which the organism functions normally only when the drug is present and withdrawal symptoms occur when the chemical is removed.”
Blackburn went on to say, “I can justify everything that happens after that; you know, homelessness is like camping.”
The diagnostic criteria is where one must have at least three out of seven symptoms to be considered chemically dependent. The behavioral symptoms include: Increased tolerance, loss of intake control, use in spite of negative consequences, attempts made to control use, withdrawal symptoms/use to avoid symptoms, social behavioral changes to accommodate use and preoccupation with use and associated activities.