Addiction impacts the brain on a lot of different levels. The chemical compounds in stimulants, nicotine, opioids, alcohol, and sedatives enter the brain and bloodstream when used. Once a chemical has entered the brain, it can cause people to lose control of their impulses or crave a harmful substance.
When someone develops an addiction, the brain craves the reward of the substance. This is due to the intense stimulation of the brain’s reward system. In response to this, people continue to use the substance, which can lead to feelings of euphoria and strange behavior. Long-term addiction can have severe outcomes, such as brain damage, and can even result in death.
The Biochemistry of Addiction
The brain responds to addiction based on a number of factors, such as the type and number of drugs used, the frequency of use, and the stage of addiction that has developed. A person who uses Cocaine, for example, will experience euphoria because Cocaine is psychoactive and impacts the part of the brain that controls pleasure and motivation. This short and powerful burst of dopamine can be so intense that a strong desire to carry on may be formed.
The more a person abuses a drug, the more they may continue using it, unless they get help overcoming addiction. Once the chemical has affected the brain, an individual may feel physical symptoms as well as the impact of chemicals throughout their nervous system. Symptoms can include a rapid heartbeat, paranoia, nausea, hallucinations, and other sensations. The user may become consumed by abusing the substance to maintain their habit, no matter what the cost. Individuals may begin to act in recognizable ways, which may be concerning to their friends and family.
How Addictions Develop
The brain regulates emotion, temperature, decision-making, coordination, and breathing. It also impacts physical sensations, cravings, compulsions, and habits. Under the influence of powerful and harmful chemicals, individuals abusing substances can alter the function of their brain.
Drugs interact with the limbic system in the brain to release strong feel-good emotions, affecting the individual’s body and mind. Users keep taking drugs to continue the intense feel-good emotions in the brain, which creates a cycle of drug use and intense use. Eventually, the drug may be needed just to feel normal.
The Brain, Addiction, and Withdrawal
As a consequence of drug addiction, the brain will reward harmful behavior. It encourages addiction and keeps the user in a pattern of highs and lows. They may feel depressed and desperate without their substance. Once a person suddenly stops using, there are harsh mental, physical, and emotional results. You might experience symptoms that cannot be ignored. Withdrawal symptoms can be stronger for some substances than others.
At the point of withdrawal, a person who stops using Heroin will experience intense cravings, depression, anxiety, and sweating. A lot of these symptoms are due to the rewiring of the brain after prolonged Heroin use. At this stage, the user may not have a full-blown addiction and be experiencing tolerance or dependency instead. Over time, the high volume of chemicals will flood the brain. The brain then adapts to the mental effects of the substance and reduces its production of neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers in the brain. Withdrawal symptoms often need professional treatment, which can significantly help to reduce the chance of relapse, and the risks of stroke and heart attack.
Brain Therapies For Addiction
When someone who is battling addiction enters a facility like Grand Falls Recovery, they will receive medication and have access to helpful treatments. A common treatment to stabilize and soothe the brain after addiction is biofeedback therapy. This means a professional will monitor the brain. The professional can figure out how to improve brain activity, reducing the effects of addiction and unhealthy impulses.
Biofeedback can use electroencephalograms (EEGs). EEGs are usually used to help individuals who have suffered from traumatic brain injuries and can also be useful to an individual who has obsessive-compulsive disorder and other brain disorders. Biofeedback can be used to reduce stress and reduce involuntary functions. This therapy can also include meditation, guided imagery, and muscle relaxation.
When this is combined with therapies like CBT or DBT, biofeedback can improve the involuntary functions of the patient, like a heartbeat, blood pressure, and muscle contraction. Neurofeedback or EEQ therapy is a kind of biofeedback. This is a brain-training treatment. In the case of addiction, brain activity will be monitored. It helps patients to reduce stress and anxiety and can treat compulsions. Both therapies work by rewarding the brain to recover how it functions.