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How Addiction Affects the Brain

Published May 24, 2021 By Addiction Helpline America

Like a computer, the human brain is a complex and dynamic organ that plays a major role in our survival. It receives, integrates, and processes information ensuring there's proper body coordination. However, when exposed to drugs and substance abuse, its normal functioning is affected leading to behavioral and lifestyle changes.

Chemicals present in various illicit drugs affect individual mental health. When chemicals from various stimulants, sedatives, nicotine, and alcohol get into the brain through the bloodstream, harmful cravings and loss of impulse control occur. Failure to mitigate drug abuse cases leads to severe brain damage or deaths.

How Addiction Develops in the Brain

Although drugs react differently to the human brain, all of them affect neurons. They interfere with how signals from the neurotransmitters to the neurons are sent, received, and processed.

The structural components of heroin and marijuana are similar to the neurotransmitters that naturally form in humans. As such, they lock them onto human brain receptors and fool them into activating the nerve cells. Bearing in mind that mimicked neurotransmitters work differently from the natural ones, they keep transmitting abnormal signals. This ends up affecting the brain and the body at large.

Prolonged drug abuse induces dangerous chemicals in the brain. Common physical symptoms showing how much the drugs have affected your brain system include;

  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Disturbing sensations
  • Nausea
  • Abnormal behaviors
  • Areas of the Brain Affected by Drug Abuse

    Substance abuse has adverse effects on three major parts of the brain. They include:

    The Cerebral Cortex Shaped like a mushroom, the cerebral cortex is among the most significant part of the human brain. Its four parts known as lobes control given functions in the brain. They're responsible for seeing, feeling, tasting, and hearing.

    The forebrain, also known as the frontal cortex acts as the thinking center of the brain. When drug and substance abuse levels go high, the forebrain power to help you think, solve issues, decide, and plan gets affected. Did you know that the prefrontal cortex in the human brain part is the last to mature?

    Due to its importance in mental health, the frontal cortex takes longer to develop fully. Its slow maturity periods make it vulnerable to kids and teens exposed to long-term drug abuse at early stages. Drug addiction affects the balancing of the frontal cortex, amygdala, and basal ganglia circuits. Individuals with substance abuse challenges have to find drugs that can maintain reduced impulse control.

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    The Brain System

    This part of the brain links the entire brain structure to the spinal cord. The spine is crucial for the movement of limbs and muscles. Besides aiding food digestion, blood circulation, and breathing, it informs the brain of various changes in your body. Also, it ensures the body is alive and functional.

    The Limbic System

    The feeling of pleasurable activities is derived from the brain before its transmission to the respective body part. The limbic system works as a link between different brain structures that control feelings of pleasure and emotions. It motivates a repeat of the behaviors that bring out happiness which is good for your mental health.

    When undertaking pleasurable activities, the brain rewards you with good feelings. A similar scenario is felt when certain drugs are taken in. These drugs form a reward circuit that brings out good emotions among its users leading to drug abuse. Long-term drug use for stimulation of pleasurable activities forces drug users to intensify the dosage with time. To feel good, they develop dependency and eventually become substance abuse victims.

    What Happens to the Brain After Withdrawal?

    Individuals who depend on drugs to feel high undergo depression when they stop its use to stay sober. Instant withdrawal causes severe emotional, mental, and physical health to substance abuse individuals. Considering it's hard to overcome withdrawal symptoms without the help of some drugs, people with drug addiction problems should first contact specialists from a recognized rehab center in the State.

    Addiction treatment is based on the type of drug abused, the duration, effects on the addict, and the risk of a relapse. But how do you stop taking the drugs without going through adverse effects such as depression and anxiety from heroin and methamphetamine abuse? Withdrawals force the brain to rewire back to its normal setup, challenging people who have formed a dependency on the drugs. To stay sober, you need an addiction treatment that's specifically meant for your type of addiction.

    Lower doses may work but must be done under the supervision of a trained mental health professional. The professionals working at a rehab center will monitor the production of the neurotransmitters in the addicts' brains and recommend different treatment options. In the meantime, the professionals will use verified treatment programs to prevent heart attacks, stroke, or chances of a relapse.

    Brain Addiction Therapies

    All the rehab centers have varying treatment plans that include innovative treatments. However, substance abuse patients with brain damage need specialized diagnostic and treatment methods.

    Over time, Biofeedback therapy has proven to be among the best method of monitoring the brain. It identifies how mental health specialists can improve individual brain activity, lower unhealthy impulses and addiction effects.

    The Biofeedback treatment program uses Electroencephalograms (EEG). This treatment program is effective for patients with cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder and traumatic brain injuries caused by excessive drug use. Using electric sensors, professionals can monitor the brains of the addict by placing it on his or her skin.

    The therapies involve muscle relaxation, meditation, and guided imagery. However, when professionals combine it with cognitive behavioral therapy, it enhances the involuntary functions of the drug abuse patient. Some of the improved functions include blood pressure, muscle contraction, and heartbeat.

    Another strategy used in treating brain damage caused by drug addiction is Neurofeedback. Similar to the biofeedback system, it improves brain function and offers treatment by monitoring the brain. Compulsions and anxiety arrest are some of the best treatments offered by Neurofeedback therapy.

    Find mental health services, including treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Get help for veterans and family members to deal with mental health issues.

    The pleasure derived from drug use is impeccable initially, but little does a drug user realize that regular consumption destroys the brain. Don't wait for the court to compel you to get treatment or let your mental health deteriorate. Seek professional help today and restore normalcy in your life.

    A veteran talks about recovery, support systems and how he found hope and help. Read his journey of recovery from alcohol dependence.

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