Irreversible Damage

Submitted by Yuri7752 on
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"Eric Nestler, at the University of Texas, has shown how addictions cause permanent changes in the brains of animals. A single dose of many addictive drugs will produce a protein, called delta FosB that accumulates in the neurons. Each time the drug is used, more delta FosB accumulates until it throws a genetic switch, affecting which genes are turned on or off. Flipping this switch causes changes that persist long after the drug is stopped, leading to irreversible damage to the brain’s dopamine system and rendering the animal far more prone to addiction. Non-drug addictions, such as running and sucrose drinking, also lead to the accumulation of deltaFosB and the same permanent changes in the dopamine system." (This is a quote from the "Your Brain on Porn" site.)

This talk about irreversible damage is really freaking me out. I thought it was possible to recover and return to normal functioning. It is possible isn't it?

Here's a Q&A

from Nestler's own site:

09. Can the changes in your brain be reversed?

There is no evidence that changes in the brain associated with drug addiction are permanent. Rather, we believe that these changes can be reversed, although this can take a long time, often many years and the reversal requires “unlearning” many of the bad habits (compulsions) associated with addiction.

Gary has more coming on this.

First, Nestler has not used

First, Nestler has not used the term "irreversible damage" when talking about DeltaFosb. It's clear that DeltaFosb accumulates during above normal levels of eating and sexual activity. Marnia and I think the positive changes seen in recovering porn users at about 4-8 weeks, may be related to declines in DeltaFosb.

FROM AN ARTICLE: Nestler and his colleagues have found at least one molecule that appears to be specific for addiction, however. The protein, called [DELTA]-FosB, builds up in the reward pathway after repeated exposure to drugs and sticks around longer than other proteins--for as long as 4 to 6 weeks after the last dose. The protein increases an animal's sensitivity to drags and can also induce relapse if injected.

The question is - does the accumulation of DeltaFosb cause changes in the genes - which last much longer than does DeltaFosb, or last forever? If so, do these genetic changes occur primarily with drugs and not with natural rewards?

Many serious drug addicts recover and eventually live life without cravings. However if those same addicts were administered their drug of choice, how many would binge, or perhaps become a practicing addict? Who knows?. Clearly, addicts relapse after periods of abstinence. One opinion is that their brains are permanently sensitized (by DeltaFosb) to the addiction, and exposure activates these old pathways. Under this model the brain has been permanently altered, but damage may be too strong a word. A former porn addict may be sensitized to porn or related cues and may need to stay away from porn. No loss.

The following is from one of Nestlers papers and he suggest DeltaFosb could be used as a bio-marker for the level of addiction and recovery. Note that Adolescents show much greater accumulation of deltafosb (they also produce higher levels of dopamine). Starting Internet porn at age 11-12 is the worst possible scenario for our limbic brains.

NESTLERS OWN WORDS: If this hypothesis is correct, it raises the interesting possibility that levels of ΔFosB in nucleus accumbens or perhaps other brain regions could be used as a biomarker to assess the state of activation of an individual's reward circuitry, as well as the degree to which an individual is ‘addicted’, both during the development of an addiction and its gradual waning during extended withdrawal or treatment. The use of ΔFosB as a marker of a state of addiction has been demonstrated in animal models. Adolescent animals show much greater induction of ΔFosB compared with older animals, consistent with their greater vulnerability for addiction.

Thanks everybody! The

Thanks everybody! The comments were helpful. I am 6 days into detox and it is hard to keep from being paranoid. I am constantly freaking out that all of this might be permanent and that I have no hope. Maybe this is my brain playing tricks on me and trying to get me to relapse, I don't know. It's good to hear that the brain can in fact return to normal functioning.


is very normal during withdrawal, and, as you say, it can attach itself to any person or issue. Try to stay detached and just take none of these "brain worms" seriously for a month or so. By then, most should have resolved themselves. Smile

In any case, this was a great question, and we'll add it to the FAQs on YBOP.

be careful

Sometimes when you read about negative things on the net, you can fulfill the prophecy. It somehow gets in your mind and becomes sort of a reality. Stay positive, and carry on with difficult work of recovery.

I myself have always speculated that Accutane caused some permanent DNA change involving neurotransmitters, but if I dwell on that, it might hinder my recovery, so I know where you're coming from.

Hang in there

You should be able to recover. Porn had been a fairly regular part of my sexual routine for about sixteen years, and it took me just a week of no porn and masturbation to start noticing substantial improvements in my ability to maintain an erection with my wife. I imagine it will be even more likely for you since you're at your sexual peak due to your age. It was difficult to swear off it, but after a couple of weeks, things were pretty much back to normal for me. Good luck!