The Healing Brain After Addiction

Mental Recovery Post-Treatment

When you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, the chemical makeup of your brain is altered. Just as other diseases affect organs in the body, the disease of addiction affects the brain in the same sense. Over time, addiction impairs the brain’s ability to function at full capacity and sometimes, these changes can be irreversible.

Although the brain can get healthier with the abstinence of drugs and alcohol, it may not fully recover back to a normal state. When an individual has been abusing substances for a prolonged period of time, the part of the brain called frontal cortex that is responsible for judgment is weakened and damaged.

Addiction is considered a chronic disease due to the fact that:

  • It alters the brains chemistry
  • It changes the biology
  • It is preventable and treatable
  • It gets worse without treatment

Tricking the Brain

Substance abuse has a way of tricking the reward system in the brain. When the brain releases neurotransmitters into the reward center, dopamine is released and pleasure/reward is experienced. This is how drugs work. They release more dopamine creating the ultimate pleasurable experience which is why addiction is such a dangerous disease. Your body and brain will build up such a high tolerance that things that use to make the individual happy, no longer do.

Addictive drugs have the capacity to release up to 10 times the amount of dopamine into the brain than regular rewards such as eating tasty food does. This is how people who abuse drugs, both prescription and illicit, become quickly addicted. Not only do they release up to 10 times the amount, but they also release it much quicker.

Over the course of time, the individual will have to increase the amount of the drugs that they take in order to satisfy their craving and they also have to use more frequently. As tolerance levels go up, the chances of an overdose also increase.

What Happens Over Time?

Over the course of an individuals life of substance abuse, their desire to use drugs lessens while their need increases. When an individual is addicted, they may not like to get high or do drugs, but they simply need to as their body will go through withdrawal symptoms if they do not use. Despite the fact that drug use is extremely detrimental to your mental and physical health, addicts will continue to use unless they get professional help. At the point of severe addiction, individuals takes drugs simply to feel ‘normal’.

The brain is an incredible organ that can regenerate and recover over time, although in serious addiction cases, a full recovery may not be possible. Studies have discovered that after 14 months of sobriety, the reward center of the brain is almost back to normal. Lower brain activity can decrease normal brain functions which inevitably disrupts daily life.

There are several factors that are considered when diagnosing an individual with addiction:

  • Continued use despite negative consequences
  • Intense cravings
  • Complete loss of control over their drug or alcohol use

If you find yourself unable to quit using drugs or alcohol regardless of the repercussions, you may be struggling with addiction.   

If you or someone close to you is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it’s important that they seek help right away. Addiction is a progressive disease that will continue to worsen if it goes untreated.

Sources:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain

https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/brain-and-addiction

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.