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How the Brain Changes During Recovery

How the Brain Changes During Recovery

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a chronic but treatable brain disease. With appropriate medication and effective treatment, your brain can heal itself. Understanding the brain’s natural healing mechanisms and how to make the most of them is key to your commitment to habit formation and lifestyle modification.

The Brain and Substance Use

The human brain is a complex organ that controls the pleasure center, among other things. Through all kinds of activities, such as eating good food or watching a movie, the brain signals pleasure by releasing neurotransmitters called dopamine. A healthy brain releases a healthy amount of dopamine when experiencing pleasure naturally.

However, when drugs or alcohol are introduced, they create an artificial flood of high doses of dopamine. As a result, individuals who use substances feel pleasure more quickly and strongly under the influence of substances. People experimenting with drugs or alcohol may like the high, but they will soon crave it, even depending on it. With time, even the original dosage of substances may become less rewarding. This is what’s known as “tolerance.”

When compared to the effects of substances, natural means of pleasure, such as spending time with loved ones or participating in hobbies, are no longer pleasurable. The brain’s neurological structures may have been altered significantly by a SUD. These changes are hard to reverse and require professional detox and treatment. 

The Addicted Brain Takes Time to Heal

Scientists and recovery experts have discovered that the addicted brain can recover, but it takes time. Usually, after 14 months of abstinence, the brain can significantly heal the dopamine transporter level in its reward region. This time frame can vary depending on what kind of substances are involved, how long, how often, and how much it was used, as well as other factors.

When the brain is recovering from substance use, it may experience stress and consider the lack of substances unsafe. That is why people in detox tend to experience strong cravings and urges.

Once individuals get better at coping with cravings, the next important phase is habit formation in a substance-free environment. Do not underestimate the power of healthy habits. They may seem insignificant, but good habits and routines are powerful tools against addiction and relapse. When individuals incorporate healthy habits into their daily routines, they train the brain to revert to its previous normal state.

Habit formation takes time. Healing the brain by habit formation or lifestyle modification requires discipline and patience. Getting the appropriate level of care at a rehab center and working with recovery experts can significantly shorten this curve. However, each individual is still in the driver’s seat to train their brain and rebuild the mind-body connection.

The Brain Science Behind Mind-Body Connection

Motivation is essential for continuous recovery. Understanding the “why” behind many recovery methods can help motivate individuals to work on these. Take regular exercise, for example. A physical workout can help increase the size of the hippocampus, a region of the brain in charge of emotional regulation, and is incredibly vulnerable to the damaging effects of substance use. Furthermore, exercise releases stress as it heals the hippocampus.

Mindfulness exercises, including yoga and meditation, can help strengthen brain circuits damaged by substance use. These restored brain circuits help individuals benefit from natural means of pleasure. Mindfulness brings a sense of clarity and release from stress as the mind-body connection is restored.

Many people know that quality sleep is essential for health. Additionally, for the brain, deep sleep is also a time for the brain to flush out toxins. An addicted brain has much more toxin build-up, and getting quality sleep is incredibly important for the brain to heal.

Rebuilding a Healthy Lifestyle for Brain Healing

Our brains are motivated by habits and behavioral patterns. Likewise, our behaviors may change the structures of the brain. Individuals must harness the same mechanisms during recovery to help the brain heal. Many people consider it challenging to follow a long-term sobriety habit. But with every week and month, individuals work on abstinence. As a result, their brain is guaranteed to be slowly changing for the better.

Recovery experts who use science-based treatment methods can help individuals go through these challenging stages of recovery. For example, they are familiar with non-addicting medications that help prevent relapses. Even when occasional relapses happen, it is important not to lose heart. Rather than seeing relapse as an end, it can be seen as an opportunity to learn and continue even better.

Working with a team of recovery experts can help individuals achieve their desired sobriety. Everyone deserves a personalized care plan and a helpful team to implement it. With time and patience, any individual’s brain health can recover to its previous normal state.

When a person is in recovery, they must understand some brain science and how the brain changes when healing from the negative impact of substances. This knowledge can motivate them to make lifestyle changes. Laguna Shores Recovery helps you understand the science behind recovery. We embrace both science-based treatment methods and a holistic approach. Here, you will also find that our experienced mental health professionals and compassionate staff know the value of building a strong recovery community. We understand the challenges of recovery because substance addiction is a chronic brain disease. We practice compassionate science in support of your ongoing recovery. Call us today at (866) 229-9923 to begin a journey of healing.