Neuroplasticity: How Addiction Affects the Brain (and Why There's Hope for Healing)
The brain is complex and extraordinary. It regulates every part of the body. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are many parts to the brain. All parts work together to make the rest of the body function.
The brain naturally produces “feel good” chemicals such as endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin. These are the chemicals that make us feel happy, excited, and energized.
When dopamine is released, our brains are anticipating a happy situation. Oxytocin is released when we feel the closeness and bond from another person. Serotonin helps regulate mood and is associated with enhancing your moods.
Endorphins can give you that extra energy to push through something uncomfortable or painful, especially physical pain.
Your Brain on Drugs
When a person uses drugs, brain chemicals are altered. Drugs affect the brain’s decision-making processes, stress regulation, memory and emotions. Drugs basically hijack the brain’s communication system and sends out messages they want your body to know, even if they can eventually harm you.
Drugs may trigger your brain to produce an enormous amount of the feel-good chemicals. The brain then sends “feel good messages” to the entire body. When the drug starts to wear off, the brain will do what it can to make you use that drug again, so it can feel good again.
For example, opioids attach to receptors in the brain that produce a rewarding feeling. It also gives a euphoric feeling followed by relaxation and a lack of pain. Opioid users report feeling an overall calming experience where all worries fade away.
Cocaine also stimulates dopamine receptors and makes a person feel a surge of energy, confidence and happiness. The effects of cocaine do not last as long as opioids, however, the brain craves cocaine much sooner than if it were on opioids.
Marijuana, ecstasy, opioids, tobacco and even sugar can affect serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain. With these drugs, there is an initial rush from the brain to the body, letting you know it likes the substance being used. This rush eventually turns into negative emotions, fearing the loss of that feel-good sensation.
Long-term drug use can have a negative impact on the brain. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the brain wants to be constantly rewarded. It craves the drugs you use and can have a long-term impact on the brain.
But there is a way to heal.
Neuroplasticity: Recovery and Healing are Possible
Just like the brain can be altered in a negative way, it can also be altered in a positive way. Brains have neuroplasticity. Meaning, they can be rewired with repeated positive actions.
When a person becomes addicted, their neural pathways have been rerouted and they seek out the familiarity in using drugs. When a person stops using drugs, the neural transmitters must find a new path. On this new path, new positive habits can be formed.
The more a person practices positive behaviors and turns them into habits, the more familiar the neural pathways. Eventually, the brain will adapt and follow only the positive pathways.
Steps Towards Recovery and Healing
There are many types of treatments you can participate in to help rewire your brain. Learning coping skills for recovery will help you throughout the process.
Detoxing from drugs is a crucial step. Once the drugs are out of your system, you can begin to implement the numerous other activities that can heal your brain.
Consult your doctor regarding how to obtain detoxification. Establish connection with skilled therapists who can help you heal from any past trauma negatively impacting you in the present. Cognitive behavioral treatments may help you develop good coping skills and help you find healthy strategies as you rewire your brain.
It is also important to build a support system. A working model includes support from family, friends and peers. Seeking family counseling can help both you and the ones you love learn how to promote recovery.
Interpersonal relationships can be damaged by addiction. Make efforts to repair relationships.
Self-help groups are a terrific place to get feedback from those who have experienced addiction and can relate to you personally. It is also a place where you can offer encouragement to others.
Giving back and helping others can motivate you to stay in recovery.
Alternative tools for healing include yoga, acupuncture, acupressure, and meditation. Each offers benefits for the mind, body and spirit.
How You Can Reach Your Full Potential (And Live a Long and Happy Drug-Free Life)
There is a profound connection between the mind and the body. Healing the mind can in fact, heal the body. By participating in activities that promote the wellbeing of the mind body connection can greatly assist in long-term recovery.
By focusing on healing your whole self, you can reach your full potential. Your emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual wellness are key to sustaining sobriety…and enjoying life !! You can live a long and happy, drug-free life. It can begin today.
If you are interested in learning more about programs for addiction and wellness, click here. Programs such as these can help you reach your potential. Seek the treatment you deserve so you can have the great life you deserve.
At the Center, guests routinely remark about the profound impact of being surrounded by consistent skilled genuine support and care.
The Center’s therapists help guests compassionately recognize and gently move away from old neural pathways (responses that are no longer helpful).
The repeated corrective emotional experiences; of being seen and supported, can allow for routine automated defences to be relaxed in the presence of such sustained incontrovertible safety.
This allows for new experiences and practices of openness and flexibility to be exercised. Slowly a default position of ‘approach’ vs. withdraw can be established re. relationships and challenges. These new neural pathways are established over time; again with the repeated corrective emotional experiences.