Surrounding all of the buzz regarding Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death, this stands out as one of the more worthwhile reads.
The more I read about mental health and the brain, the more I hear about the brain’s ability to “wire” and “rewire” it’s neural pathways (aka. brain plasticity). What I’ve read suggests that repeated behaviours and activities “program” a pathway in the brain. Over time, like a shortcut carved into the grass by thousands of feet taking that same route, these pathways become the obvious course. My understanding is that’s the principle behind LSD use in PTSD treatment — it re-jigs the brain, offers alternatives to the PTSD-induced pathways that have become ingrained in the patient’s brain.
If behaviour can wire the brain, it’s no wonder that substances that act on the brain can have a similar effect. As the author of this article, Seth Mnookin, says: “long-term [substance] abuse rewires your brain and its chemistry.” You may have done your very best to rewire those paths, to re-plant grass along the bare strip. But “associated stimuli” can trigger old habits. For example, if you’re in a rush, you’re going to say to hell with your grass seeds and take the shortcut that is still clearly visible.