I wanted to create a visual representation of the mesocorticolimbic reward system that is active in addiction. The red and yellows represent the active system itself, originating in the midbrain and spraying out into the prefrontal cortex as dopamine would do when the reward pathway is activated. By affecting the prefrontal cortex so strongly and over stimulating the reward pathway in addiction, the connections are actually physically altered to the point that behaviour is fundamentally and uncontrollably changed. Priorities change from food, sex and sleep, natural stimulants of the pathway, to the drug and only the drug. The brains of addicts are so altered they cannot be aware of how damaging the effect is. This is important in understanding the stigma surrounding addiction, and recognizing that continued addiction is not a choice or a character flaw but a genuine biological issue.
Hopefully this painting will help bridge the gap between hollowed out faces of addiction and what is actually happening in the brain.