Addiction is a mental illness that prioritizes immediate gratification despite potential long-term consequences. According to a recent study, the gut microbiome may influence addiction, and the connection is highly possible given the presence of the gut-brain axis.
The brain interprets that as a benefit from using the medication and works to obtain more. A substantial percentage of avoidable fatalities are caused by addiction. Each year, opioids alone claim the lives of almost 100,000 people in the United States, and over a million individuals have lost their lives from drug overdose since 1999.
How does addiction work?
Addicts often build up a tolerance to the drug of choice, which results in rising dosages and a higher risk of physical injury. Another undesirable aspect of addiction is withdrawal. Withdrawal subtracts any enjoyment from the substance, leaving them distressed and potentially relapsing.
Our gut's bacteria are part of an ecosystem. It needs diversity, just like any other ecosystem, to be robust. Alcohol, smoke, caffeine, methamphetamines, heroin, cocaine, and even sugar all significantly harm that variety.
Many addicts increase their drug intake to feel better since they are unaware of what generates mental agitation. That merely makes the issue worse. The Israeli study suggests that correcting it could be more challenging than we might anticipate, even if the genuine remedy is in their gut.
The findings, conducted by Lilach Hadany, Ohad Lewin-Epstein, and colleagues at Tel Aviv University, say the existence of the gut-brain axis makes the connection entirely plausible. Many helpful bacteria are eliminated, and diseases profit from their demise to grow. Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli are two examples of beneficial bacteria that are repressed.
Some of the bacteria that are being attacked make serotonin and dopamine, which have a role in feeling happy. Naturally, losing them might make one miserable and make them need additional drugs. Flavobacterium, Enterococcus, Fusobacterium, Clostridium, Sutterella, and Ruminococcus are opportunistic pathogens that replace beneficial bacteria.
The synthesis of butyrate, a unique substance that nourishes and repairs the gut lining, decreases due to these microbial revolutions. Dysbiosis is the term for this departure from a balanced microbiome. Dysbiotic individuals make up a substantial portion of the addicted population.
These types of people have leaky stomachs that let germs and poisons into circulation and they are then willingly pumped to every organ in the body, including the brain, by the heart.
However, the wall separating the blood from the brain can deteriorate with time. And despair and anxiety may develop if poisons and germs enter the brain, and these internal alterations pave the way for self-medication. To make matters worse, it can be challenging to revert as soon as your microbiome adapts to this new dysbiotic routine.
We find that when this ecosystem is exposed to substantial perturbations, the microbiome may shift towards a composition that reinforces the new host state.- Research team
In other words, it becomes bogged down. Such a positive feedback loop, they go on to say, "aggravates the imbalances, obstructs efforts to restore the initial equilibrium, promotes relapse episodes, and prolongs addictions."
The team concludes that the initial microbiome composition is a critical factor, and a diversified microbiome improves the resilience of the ecosystem. Still, reduced microbiome diversity is more likely to result in dysbiosis, aggravating addictions.
This paradigm offers verifiable predictions with potential application to therapeutic therapies while providing evolutionary and ecological views on host-microbiome interactions and their consequences for host behavior and health.
- Communications Biology. Evolutionary modeling suggests that addictions may be driven by competition-induced microbiome dysbiosis.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. Introduction to the human gut microbiota.
- CDC. Drug Overdose Deaths.