A day at the University of Roehampton

Ohenewaa has recently joined Blenheim’s Business Growth team, who pursue new and exciting opportunities for Blenheim’s growth and development.

Blenheim has been working with the neuroscience academics at the University of Roehampton, including developing an online ‘Meet the Brain’ module which will launch this summer.

Last week, Ohenewaa visited the University to learn more about their work.

Find out what she made of it…

Our mission at Blenheim is to end drug and alcohol dependency and its related harms by enabling people to change. For the Business Growth team, this involves:

  1. Developing ideas and partnerships that harness expert knowledge, skills & innovation.
  2. Securing funding to deliver our services and trial innovative ways of working.
  3. Ensuring that our charity’s systems assure quality and compliance.
  4. Using research to inform and direct our services in the future.

Our team regularly attend training sessions and conferences as these provide exciting opportunities for personal development and to meet our objectives. An opportunity arose with Roehampton University who ran a lecture series exploring the effect of drug use on the brain.

We began with an introduction to classical and novel psychoactive substances and their effects on the brain and health – mostly focusing on people’s dependence on drugs and the pathways of reward and addiction.  We ended the day seeing how this process looks under a microscope using simulated images.

I learnt that the brain communicates to our body using a complex network of neurons / nerve cells. Our bodies have natural dopamine which is released into our brain to tell us when we have done something good. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger) and drugs are also chemical messengers. Drugs can interfere with our brain chemistry and mimic normal dopamine neurotransmitters tricking the brain into releasing a lot of dopamine in our brain’s reward system releasing feelings of pleasure or escape. Repeated use of toxic drugs means that your brain begins to become tolerant and your ability to feel pleasure is reduced resulting in changes to neuron and brain circuits. It now takes more drug use to feel that ‘high’ you felt the first time eventually leading to addiction.

This is concerning, as there is a bracket of normality/tolerance for all biological function. This means that as human beings, there is a level of normality that is good for us. Outside of those boundaries, we struggle to function healthily ultimately leading to emotional, psychological and physical issues.

The good news is there is hope; there are treatments that help those who have addictions.

Here at Blenheim, we believe in people’s capacity to change. We believe that your best years are and will always be ahead of you. We believe in the person and never their circumstances. We believe every person is of value and should be treated as such. We do this by providing support for drug and alcohol users, families and carers.

It is such an honour to work with an organisation that embodies values I personally identify with. Sometimes in life, we like to pick and choose what we feel is worthy of our compassion, but most times, we need to push that aside and focus on the main thing:

People.

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