Addiction has devastating effects not just on a person’s life but also on society as a whole. Individuals suffering from addiction tend to have a detrimental effect on their families as well. Studies show that if a parent is addicted to drugs, there is a high probability that their children will develop addiction disorders.
According to the most recent statistics, the number of drug addicts over 12 years old in the United States is approximately 31.9 million. This means that the lives of 31.9 million families are being affected.
Is Addiction a Disease?
Addiction is more than merely substance abuse; it’s a disease of the brain having adverse effects on a person’s physical and mental health and social well-being. The worst part of being an addict is that you have an uncontrollable urge to use drugs, and your cravings can drive you to any limits to achieve this goal.
Prolonged misuse of heroin, opioids, alcohol, prescribed drugs, benzodiazepines, and stimulants like cocaine and meth cause addiction disorders, resulting in severe brain damage.
Addiction is somewhat similar to chronic diseases because they can last a lifetime if left untreated. The good news is, like other chronic diseases, addiction can also be prevented, managed, and treated through medicines and several behavioral therapies. Many renowned addiction treatment centers like Delphi Health Group use a combination of medication-assisted treatment and behavioral therapies to help your brain recover from addiction, with a reduced probability of a relapse.
How Addiction Affects the Brain?
Since addiction has its roots diagnosed in the human mind, an addict’s mental health suffers the most when deep into substance abuse. Addiction affects a person’s brain in many ways. Let’s explore it in detail.
Trick the Brain’s Reward System
Substance abuse releases overwhelming dopamine to signal the brain’s reward system. As drug addiction develops, the brain reward system gets adapted to the regular flushing of dopamine and develops a tolerance for it. Over time, a drug addict doesn’t experience the same psychoactive effects and starts taking more substances to feel high.
Drugs directly affect a person’s memory because substance abuse affects areas of the brain that regulate cognitive functions such as memory. Addiction damages the brain’s hippocampus, located inside the temporal lobe. The hippocampus allows you to learn and remember things, and damage in this area of the brain impacts your ability to form new memories or recall old ones.
A drug addict experiences brain fog, forgetfulness, lack of focus, and absentmindedness. Addiction also increases the risk of developing memory-related disorders like dementia, amnesia, Alzheimer’s Syndrome, etc.
When the brain routinely releases high dopamine levels, a decrease in these levels stimulates strong impulse reactions. Addiction instigates impulsive behavior in a person triggering activities leading to risky situations.
Anxiety and Lack of Emotional Stability
Substance abuse damages the parts of the brain responsible for emotion, which results in a lack of emotional stability and frequent panic attacks. As the time passes, their cravings increase, and if they are low on drugs, they experience increased anxiety. The urge to feel high again incites a drug addict. Drug addicts become too violent or emotionally unstable to handle in most cases.
Can Brain Heal Itself after Addiction?
Addiction is a treatable disorder. Human brains have a remarkable potential to recover from addictive behaviors. Extensive research in addiction has led to the discovery of several therapeutic and behavioral methods that can stimulate the brain to decrease drug dependency for psychoactive effects. Moreover, incorporating awareness and meditation in a drug addict’s treatment procedure effectively reduces the chances of a relapse.
Medication-assisted treatment methodology changes the brain’s chemical processes and physical structure. Addiction recovery procedures help retrain an addict’s brain through therapies and meditation. Rehabilitation centers help people adapt to sober living to instill emotional stability and foster social cognitive behavior.
Helping the Brain Recover from Addiction
Addiction is a brain disorder. By treating it, one can minimize addiction’s damaging effects. People can regain control over their lives by combining various treatment methods to change their deeply ingrained behaviors. These methods include:
Medication-Assisted Treatment or Detox
Research shows that medication should be the first line of action to help the brain recover from substance abuse. These medicines aim to reduce the addict’s dependency on substance use, decrease craving, and relieve anxiety symptoms.
Medication-assisted treatment includes using several pharmaceutical medicines such as Suboxone or Subutex for heroin or opioid addiction cases. The use of medicinal marijuana in the form of CBD oil and edible or ingestible pills has also proved effective in treating drug addiction.
Medication-assisted treatment or detox can take days before the brain starts to heal. Although the brain starts recovering the volume of grey matter lost due to addiction within days of quitting substance use, it may take several months for the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex to recover completely.
Behavioral and Psychological Therapies
A person with mild to severe addiction disorder can be effectively treated by combining medicine and different brain therapies. Therapies like biofeedback therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and dialectical behavioral therapy are the most common treatments to stabilize the brain.
Biofeedback therapy helps professionals monitor the brain to reduce impulses and involuntary functions, improving healthy brain activity.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you recognize and alter destructive thought patterns. It also allows neural network growth in your brain and helps support positive behavioral changes. It increases brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, inculcating better control over emotions and impulses.
When combined with medication and other therapies, mediation has been extremely effective in strengthening connections in your brain. It encourages you to relate the information from the outside world to yourself and promotes positive behavior. Meditation has a positive impact on healthier sensory awareness and self-control.
Meditation effectively reduces the chances of relapse in a person by reducing fear and anxiety and strengthening their memory.
Rehabilitation centers provide sober living facilities to people recovering from substance abuse to help people get back to normal life. Give yourself several months of sober living to help your brain progress and adapt to lower dopamine levels. The recommended time of sober living is around one year, during which you can learn new skills and foster brain recovery.
Certain lifestyle changes can help the brain recover from addiction. Regularly eating healthy and nutritious meals, exercising daily, and going to bed on time can naturally heal your brain.
Many dieticians and physicians recommend specific diets like Low-Carb-High-Fat diets to help stimulate positive brain activity. You also follow diets such as the Ketogenic diet, which supports the intake of healthy fats essential for the effective functioning of the brain. Physical Exercise speeds up your metabolism and speeds up the brain’s recovery process and removal of toxic chemicals.
Substance abuse has a great potential to damage your brain. It affects the chemical composition, structure, and functionality of the brain. While some changes may be persistent, the brain has a tremendous natural tendency to heal itself from nearly all neurological complications or consequences of drug addiction. What matters most is a person’s willingness and determination to get rid of addiction and how soon they start the recovery process.
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