The Effects of Addiction on the Body and Brain

A man handling the effects of addiction.

Addiction is a complex disease that can have significant impacts on the brain and body. It can change the way the brain works, which is what controls the way a person thinks, feels, talks, and moves. On top of that, the brain controls the function of all the other organs in the body. These organs, such as the liver and kidneys, need to stay healthy in order to operate on a daily basis and are essential to survival. The effects of addiction on the brain and body can be damaging in the long-term, so it’s important to get help if you or someone you know is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction.

Addiction and The Brain

The brain is a very important organ in the human body. The brain adapts to environmental changes and allows us to cope with negative emotions, form memories, and learn. But, drug and alcohol addiction can drastically impact how the brain functions. The addicted brain changes both chemically and physiologically.

An x-ray showing the effects of addiction and the brain.

Chemical Changes

Beginning with the chemical changes addiction has on the brain, 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, “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 higher potency or more risky and addictive activities. These chemical changes in the brain are one reason why substance abuse problems are so hard to stop, especially without treatment. 

Physiological Changes

On top of the effects of addiction on the brain’s neurotransmitters and associated chemicals, the brain also changes physiologically. “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. Drugs and alcohol affect the brain’s ability to form and store important memories. These substances also can cause irreversible brain damage.

Retraining the Brain After Addiction

Even if people understand the changes and cycle of addiction and how it changes the brain, they cannot stop on their own. The brain is dependent on 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.

At Corner Canyon Recovery, we focus on the Gut-Brain connection to restore adequate levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. It’s our top priority to heal the brain after someone has suffered from addiction.

Effects of Addiction on the Body

Beyond just the effect addiction has on the brain, when a person is addicted to drugs and alcohol, the entire body is affected too. Drugs and alcohol affect major organ function and with prolonged drug or alcohol addiction, permanent effects on vital systems and functions can lead to disability or even early death. The effects of addiction on the body can also carry over to physical changes.

Internal Effects of Addiction on the Body

Because of the effects addiction has on the body’s major organs, it can lead to heart disease, liver failure, some types of cancer, kidney failure, overdose, and even death. Drugs and alcohol can cause chronic heart problems and diseases that could result in heart attacks, high blood pressure, and an irregular heartbeat. These heart complications can be fatal. Addiction can also contribute to cirrhosis of the liver, cancer, and organ damage or failure. Drug and alcohol use also weakens the immune system, which can make a person prone to many diseases and viruses.

External Effects of Addiction on the Body

Addiction not only causes internal changes, but also physical changes in appearance. It can alter a person’s skin, hair, nails, weight, and teeth. Acne and skin lesions can be a common effect of addiction, as well as baldness or male pattern hair growth in women. Addiction can also cause jaw and teeth issues such as cavities and gum disease. 

Fighting Addiction with Corner Canyon Recovery

A woman overcoming the effect of addiction on the body.

Knowing the effects of addiction can motivate a person to quit drugs or alcohol, however, the physical changes in the brain make it very difficult for a person to stop using even if they want to. Although there is no cure for addiction, there is treatment and hope in recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or a substance use disorder, do not be afraid to ask for help. Save a life and get help today.

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 contact us today. We can help you get the treatment you deserve and stop the effects of addiction in your life.

 

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