How Does Addiction Affect Our Brain?

Addictions are a serious problem that can lead to long-term brain changes. But you may not be how aware of just many people are affected by addictions. research shows that about 20 million Americans suffer from a substance use disorder.

The same research shows that 1 out of 8 adults every year struggles with alcohol and drug use disorders simultaneously.

And in Massachusetts, the problem can be even worse. Data shows that the opioid crisis is twice as bad in Massachusetts as in the rest of the US, making addiction treatment in MA even more necessary.

What makes these powerful addictions so hard to overcome?

Below we’ll explain how addictions affect your brain chemistry. You’ll learn what you need to know before you undergo addiction treatment in MA.

What Causes Addiction?

The word addiction comes from the Latin term for “enslaved by.” Addictions often do just that by changing the brain chemistry of anyone who suffers from an addiction.

Addictions have powerful influences on the brain that can result in serious consequences. First, the brain will learn to crave the substance or activity. Then, the individual will lose control over its use.

Lastly, the user will continue to enable the addiction even after suffering serious consequences. In their brains, it feels better to pursue the addiction than go without it.

When you think of addiction, substance abuse and alcohol may be the first things that come to mind. But numerous other activities like gambling, shopping, and sex can turn into addictions.

The Pleasure Principle

Addictions start with the pleasure principle or the way that people experience a pleasure. Every brain registers and experiences pleasure through the release of dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is released in the nucleus accumbens. Neuroscientists often call this area of the brain the brain’s “pleasure center.”

Any addictive activity, whether it’s using nicotine or spending money on destructive shopping habits, will cause the brain to release a surge of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens.

If someone wants to understand the likelihood that they’ll develop an addiction, they can look into the dopamine release.

Say that someone’s brain releases dopamine fast, instantly, and consistently every time they drink alcohol. They may be more vulnerable to alcohol abuse disorder than someone who has a less strong reaction.

Learning Process & Tolerance Building

Dopamine interacts with the brain’s learning process by making pursuing an addiction pleasurable for the user.

The brain’s reward-related system of learning connects activities like eating and sex with pleasure and reward. Addiction will take advantage of this reward system.

An addiction will overload the brain’s reward circuit and cause adverse effects. Repeatedly pursuing an addiction will teach the brain to seek out the addiction.

But over time, the brain will develop a tolerance to the addiction. The activity will become less pleasurable over time. The brain will adapt to the exposure.

Say that someone is using an addictive drug. It would release significantly more rewards than a natural dopamine reward. If that person becomes addicted, their dopamine receptors will become overwhelmed.

In response, the brain will produce less dopamine – essentially muting the effects so the brain can tolerate the rush of dopamine.

After these adaptations in the brain, the dopamine then has less of an effect on the brain’s reward center. The original amount of the substance will not give the user the same pleasure, so they have to use more to get the same “high.”

Being Controlled by Compulsion

As the addiction grows stronger, compulsion takes over in the brain. The brain will not have the same amount of pleasure from using the drug, but it will have the memory of the desired effect.

The brain will also use its learning process to store information about how the user can access the addiction.

For instance, say someone is addicted to cigarettes. When they were first exposed to cigarettes, they were at a certain bar. Now, every time they go out to bars, they will have an intense craving to smoke, the result of a conditioned response.

When someone does not fulfill the addiction as the brain expects and desires, the person may begin to suffer from withdrawal symptoms.

For instance, someone who suffers from an addiction to heroin will experience strong cravings, mood swings, and even sweating if they do not “get their fix.”

These symptoms can often be so strong that they can only be overcome with professional treatment. Drug rehab in MA can help reduce the risks of stroke and heart attack with withdrawal.

Cravings make it difficult not only to overcome addiction but also to maintain sobriety. Someone who has been alcohol-free for 10 years may be in danger of relapse if he goes somewhere that has environmental or emotional triggers.

Brain Therapies for Addiction

Overcoming substance use disorders on one’s own is one of the most difficult paths to recovery. We recommend seeking the help of experts. They can guide you through a safe recovery process with emotional support.

Anyone suffering from addictive disorders in Massachusetts who believes it’s time to seek help is encouraged to look into residential addiction treatment in MA, whether it’s for drug detox in MA or alcohol detox in MA.

When they enter a facility, patients can receive the medication that’s right for them. They’ll also have access to innovative rehabilitation treatments.

Patients will be able to work with therapists to help them manage their withdrawal symptoms. They can even learn new therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Coming to Mayflower drug and alcohol rehab in MA will give people the tools and methods they deserve for the best possible recovery. No one should ever have to detox alone.

Getting Help: Addiction Treatment in MA

Addiction treatment in MA can be the first step of your recovery process. With our world-class treatments, staff, and facilities, we believe our amenities will create the best environment for recovery possible.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We are here to personalize our programs to your needs and give you the highest chance of success.

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