How Does Addiction Change The Brain?

How Does Addiction Change The Brain?

The brain is a very important organ in the human body. It controls how we move, walk, talk, and speak. The brain adapts to environmental changes and allows us to cope with negative emotions, form memories, and learn.

The addicted brain changes chemically and physiologically. Drugs and alcohol affect the brain’s neurotransmitters, which release an excess level of dopamine causing temporary pleasurable feelings and euphoria. According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, How Addiction Hijacks the Brain (2011), “Dopamine not only contributes to the experience of pleasure, but also plays a role in learning and memory — two key elements in the transition from liking something to becoming addicted to it.”

Over time, the brain adapts in a way that actually makes the sought-after substance or activity less pleasurable. Eventually, it becomes increasingly difficult to get the release of more dopamine to feel the same pleasure. This makes a person want more drugs and alcohol with a higher potency, or more risky and addictive activities.  

“The brain actually changes with addiction, and it takes a good deal of work to get it back to its normal state. The more drugs or alcohol you’ve taken, the more disruptive it is to the brain,” said Dr. George Koob, director of NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2015). Drugs and alcohol affect major organ function and can lead to heart disease, liver failure, some types of cancer, kidney failure, overdose, and early death. Drugs and alcohol affect the brain’s ability to form and store important memories. These substances also can cause irreversible brain damage.

Even if people understand the cycle of addiction and how it changes the brain, they cannot stop on their own. The brain is dependent on the drugs or alcohol, so a person needs to commit to recovery to change his or her lifestyle. When in treatment, a person’s brain needs to be re-trained to function normally, without toxic substances. It will take time for the brain to re-adjust to a sober, healthy lifestyle.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, do not wait to get help. There is no cure for addiction, but treatment is available, and recovery is possible.

At Corner Canyon, our doors are open to adult clients seeking healing and transformation to put their lives on the path of recovery. Our residential treatment center offers a warm and welcoming home environment paired with exceptional individualized clinical care utilizing the latest in scientific advancement for treating both mental health and addiction treatment. For information on our program outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, call us today: 877-717-6237

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