Addiction is a complex brain disease and changes the brain chemically and physiologically. The addicted brain is a vital 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.
Drugs and alcohol affect the brain’s neurotransmitters, which release an excess level of dopamine causing temporary pleasurable feelings and euphoria. The brain registers all pleasures in a similar way, whether they begin with a psychoactive drug, reward, sexual encounter, or a satisfying meal.
“Repeated exposure to an addictive substance or behavior causes nerve cells in the nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain involved in planning and executing tasks) to communicate in a way that couples liking something with wanting it, in turn driving us to go after it.” (Harvard Medical School, 2011). This prompts us to seek the source of pleasure.
Over time, the addicted 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.
According to Dr. George Koob, director of NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2015), “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.”
Even if people understand the cycle of addiction and how it changes the addicted brain, they cannot stop on their own. 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, you are not alone. Get help today so you can enjoy a fulfilling and healthy life in sobriety. There is hope in recovery.
Serenity Springs Recovery Center focuses on rejuvenating men’s holistic spirit for success in addiction recovery. Our unique dual-diagnosis treatment program with a 12-step completion model helps men change their lives inside and out. Our mission is to provide tools and support for every client’s seamless transition into a meaningful and fulfilling life in sobriety. For information, call (386) 423-4540