Barbara Ellen: A Canadian study suggests that people who think that they only use cocaine “recreationally” could be in danger of becoming addicted more easilythan previously thought. After taking cocaine, participants underwent a PET scan while watching people with whom they had used the drug taking more cocaine. Just watching fellow participants take cocaine led to craving and a dopamine release in the dorsal striatum, which could lead to dependency.
Certain hard partying reprobates may right now be thinking: “How do I get on to a study like that?” More seriously, drug addiction is a grim, complex and sometimes fatal business and, as the study points out, it would be beneficial to catch it early. Presumably, other factors must be taken into account: how the drug was taken, how often and whether someone has an addictive personality. Something more than dopamine release has to explain why some people taking a hard drug such as cocaine end up addicted, while others don’t.
As for visual triggers, in my experience, this wouldn’t have to be people taking drugs right in front of you. Triggers could be swirling around in a variety of youth, musical and hedonistic subcultures. I observed first hand how people could talk themselves into, say, becoming heroin addicts, even before they had laid eyes on the drug itself.
Sometimes, the gateway was not so much a softer drug, or the people around them, as much as the mythology surrounding the class A drug itself, a mythology that, for whatever reason, certain people are particularly interested in buying into. It seems that first there are drugs, then there are those who want to take them, then there is the most wretched group of all – those who end up being taken by them. – The Guardian