How Does Addiction Affect the Brain?

Scientific research on addiction and the human brain has long revealed that the biochemistry and anatomy of neurons alter their pathways when a person uses substances frequently. Some drugs may even have a long-term or permanent impact on the brain. However, some scientists and healthcare professionals contend that this neurological theory is deterministic or fatalistic and therefore does not account for individual differences. 

Research from Nature verifies that addiction is a brain disease. Therefore, it is essential to understand how and why this happens? Such knowledge can help prepare you to understand and even avoid the risk factors associated with substance use and its impact on your brain. It can also help you with managing long-term recovery. Let’s take a closer look at how addiction affects the brain. 

Substances Chemically Affect the Brain

The brain has a reward system, also referred to as “the addiction pathway.” The pathway typically governs your motivations, including your behavior, eating, exercise, and sexual behavior; however, it can become motivated by your addiction. The path also extends to the front of the brain, which acts as a traffic hub for emotional control and the limbic system. Therefore it can also affect your learning and memory abilities within the hippocampus. In short, the addiction pathway can interfere with important locations of the human brain.

After regular exposure to substances, the brain’s mesolimbic dopamine pathway – also known as the “reward circuit” can be changed. Addictive drugs may also interfere with your brain’s normal dopamine processing. Typically, the brain has balanced control over supplies of dopamine. However, substance use tends to increase brain levels of dopamine artificially. These changes prevent the neurons from doing their normal job of holding down natural dopamine production. Over time, this restructuring not only alters the dopamine pathway but also recruits other brain chemicals.  

Continued Substance Use Alter’s the Brain

Sustained substance use can train your brain to undergo a neurological saturation. Substances also interfere with how neurons send, receive, and process signals. Since these parts alter important brain areas that are pivotal for life-sustaining functions, compulsive behaviors usually develop after addiction. Therefore, the brain is no longer satisfied with what used to be natural rewards and craves more of the substance. Soon, the neurological system fails to sustain a natural pathway of rewards or pleasure. 

From a behavioral standpoint, your ability to experience pleasure from naturally rewarding activities becomes reduced. Further, emotional blunting, sensational flatness, and depression set in, and you might continue to use substances to regulate negative moods. Over time you might begin to feel lifeless, numb, and lonely. It is actually because of the fact that the brain and the body both demand more artificial stimulation.

Withdrawal Takes Over

When you stop using drugs or alcohol, your brain is empty of chemical rewards, so it begins to command your body with withdrawal symptoms. Such symptoms can become painful and even demanding for the substance. Reaching this point can cultivate a dangerous cycle of stopping use, dependency, and relapse. Without proper treatment, each new cycle can be more aggressive than the last.

Additionally, because of the way the brain functions after regular substance use, deprived addicts relapse not because they seek higher sensational rewards but because they just want to feel normal. When you succumb to feeling this way, it is an urgent sign that you need to seek help.  

How Does This Knowledge Help?

Understanding the scientific foundation of how addiction alters brain structures can be helpful for you and your healthcare provider when assessing a proper diagnosis and treatment. Therefore, if you are seeking treatment, it is crucial to know that effective recovery involves addressing the neurological aspects of your brain. It is helpful to understand why and how your behaviors change? However, to do this requires a more sophisticated grasp of your health condition, including being honest during an assessment and seeking information on your family’s health history. 

To be a fully informed patient for care, you need to try your best to understand how things happen to your body. This knowledge also helps you understand why it takes so much effort to combat and manage your addiction. Such knowledge is also helpful to health professionals at treatment centers. By integrating these scientific perspectives into treatment plans, medical professionals can better care for their patients. They also need to care for those who experience relapses patiently. Medical staff leading 12-Step groups can also use this knowledge to guide people through the recovery process patiently.

Understanding how addiction affects your brain can help lend insight into why you exhibit certain behaviors that surround your addiction. If you are currently struggling to manage your addiction, then the time to get help is today. At Laguna Shores Recovery, we provide qualified medical professionals who will work to find proper diagnosis and the best care to meet your needs. Our approach to care embodies both a conventional and holistic approach to ensure that you have access to the best resources possible. We also help you build the foundational skills necessary for sustaining lasting recovery and facing real-world challenges. With a provided 24/7 admissions, you have the comfort in knowing that help is here for you when you need it. Remember, your journey begins the day you act to get help for your addiction. To find out more information about addiction and recovery, call Laguna Shores today at (866) 906-3203.