Project Recovery: Dr. Matt Woolley explains the science of addiction

Jun 11, 2019, 4:02 PM | Updated: Jun 14, 2019, 2:00 pm
Project Recovery...
Dr. Matt Woolley and Casey Scott, the hosts of Project Recovery. (Photo: KSL Newsradio)
(Photo: KSL Newsradio)

Why do some people battle addiction when others don’t? What makes someone more prone to addiction than someone else?

The answer may lie in science.

On the latest episode of Project Recovery, hosts Casey Scott and Dr. Matt Woolley discuss how can you know if your behavior means you have an addiction.

People can be trapped in an addictive cycle, Dr. Woolley says, but not with things that are easily recognized as addictive.

Casey Scott says we as a society draw a line between types of addictions. If it is illegal, he says, it is seen as being bad. If you can buy it at the supermarket, then it is seen as good, Scott says.

The science of addiction

Dr. Woolley says that in the field of mental health, addictions are brain disorders.

“We are talking about a brain mechanism that’s involved in addiction. And sometimes that is referred to as a reward pathway,” Woolley says.

Basically, he says, what’s happening is something is triggering the neurochemical called dopamine. There are other neurochemicals involved too, “and that pathway, what it does is it creates this reward loop,” he says.

The human brain is designed to reward you for doing the things that keep the body alive, adaptive, and healthy, Woolley says.

Dopamine is released when the good action is performed, he says, wiring the brain to want to repeat the action to elicit the release of more dopamine.

The cycle of addiction

Behaviors become habitual over time due to this cycle.

Habitual behavior as an adult is due to reinforced behavior throughout a person’s life, reinforced by positive responses.

You anticipate an action will make you feel good, so you do it, Woolley says.

In an addiction cycle, a person begins to binge and the dopamine engages.

Then, the brain gets used to a certain amount of dopamine. This tolerance means the addictive substance needs to be increased to get the same feeling, he says.

Overcoming the body

Dr. Woolley says that when a person has an urge to give into an addiction or have a panic attack they have physical tension in the body and an increased heart rate.

Woolley says that calming the body down by breathing, meditating, stretching, and other activities can help a person work through until the body calms down.

“Give it time,” he says. “Nothing cures anxiety quite as well as a good plan.”

Introduction to behavioral addictions – or – impulse control PART ONE

Introduction to behavioral addictions – or – impulse control PART TWO

Resources for those suffering from addiction

Download Project Recovery Podcast

Project Recovery - Apple Podcasts  Project Recovery - Google Play

Today’s Top Stories


university of utah...
Mark Jones

University of Utah Health among the nation’s top 10 for 13th year in row

The 2022 Vizient Bernard A. Birnbaum, MD, Quality Leadership Award has ranked University of Utah Health in the top 10 for the 13th straight year.
1 day ago
intermountain healthcare...
Mark Jones

Name change coming to Intermountain Healthcare next year

In 2023, Intermountain Healthcare will change its name to Intermountain Health.
3 days ago
ovarian cancer...
Simone Seikaly

A new chance for a fighting chance against ovarian cancer

What may be most alarming about ovarian cancer is that the symptoms are there, but they are quiet and can be mistaken for something else.
3 days ago
Lincoln Beach pictured. Two shooting at Utah Lake happened near this beach....
Simone Seikaly

Utah County Health issues warning about harmful algal blooms

Utah County officials have detected high levels of harmful algal blooms at multiple Utah Lake marinas and beaches.
3 days ago
Intermountain milestone 1 million tests...
Mark Jones

Intermountain Healthcare purchases land near Ephraim

Intermountain Healthcare has plans to develop 35 acres of land in the Ephraim area into a new hospital.
4 days ago
At 5800 So. 1400 W. you find an irrigation canal that attracts  a lot of waterfowl, seagulls and ev...
Mark Jones

Officials warn of additional cases of avian influenza

With the fall migration of wild waterfowl, state officials are warning bird owners to be prepared for additional cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza or avian influenza.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Project Recovery: Dr. Matt Woolley explains the science of addiction