Addiction impacts the brain on many levels. The chemical compounds in Stimulants, Nicotine, Opioids, alcohol, and Sedatives enter the brain and bloodstream upon use. Once a chemical enters the brain, it can cause people to lose control of their impulses or crave a harmful substance that can lead to addiction or even death in some cases. That’s why it’s so important to get an addiction rehab treatment program started as soon as possible after the onset of an addiction. But what about those who are addicted but still want to get better? How does addiction impact the brain? Let’s find out.
What is addiction?
Addiction is a chronic brain disease that is characterised by compulsive, or uncontrollable, drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences. In fact, drugs change how the brain works in fundamental ways—which is why it’s so hard to stop using them. Addiction is a complicated disease and there’s no one set way that it develops; however, studies have shown that addiction can run in families and people who struggle with addiction are more likely to have mental health problems like depression or anxiety.
How does addiction impact the brain?
Addiction affects individuals mental health in a number of ways. The chemicals released from an addiction can change brain chemistry and influence a person’s thoughts, feelings, behaviour, and overall health. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, it may be time to consider an addiction treatment program that provides care for dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders in a safe, comfortable environment.
Changes to the brain’s natural balance
When a person uses addictive substances like nicotine, stimulants, opioids, alcohol, or sedatives and withdraws from these substances, their brain’s chemical balance shifts. This shift can cause a person to experience cravings for drugs or other harmful behaviours. These cravings might not be immediate after stopping use of a substance but could develop over time.
Addiction alters brain chemistry
The brain chemistry of an addict differs from that of a person who does not have an addiction. After repeatedly abusing drugs, alcohol, or other substances, individuals may develop persistent changes in their brain’s neural circuits and neurotransmitter levels. While many chronic addictions start out as social habits, even casual drug use can change brain structure and function for those predisposed to addiction.
Changes the brain’s communication patterns
Addiction impacts all levels of a person’s brain and body. Over time, continued substance abuse can rewire an individual’s brain to believe they need more and more of a certain substance to feel good or just normal. Many parts of the brain are impacted by addiction. The frontal lobe, which is responsible for impulse control, reasoning, decision-making, emotions and memory; The hippocampus which controls long-term memory; And synapses which carry messages from one neuron to another throughout your brain.
Changes to brain structures and their functioning
When you take a drug, your brain converts it into dopamine, a neurotransmitter that sends pleasure signals to your reward centre. But when that drug wears off, or if you use too much of it, your brain stops producing enough dopamine on its own. This can lead to tolerance—where more and more of a substance is needed to produce similar effects—and withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and cravings.
A person who is suffering from addiction will have lost control of their impulses, and getting treatment will be in their best interest. This may mean finding an addiction rehab centre to help them with both a detox period and learning ways to stay sober once they’re out of rehab. If you know someone who is struggling with addiction, it may be time to talk about getting treatment for them. Addiction recovery programs are available through private facilities  or government-funded programs depending on your insurance coverage and ability to pay for it.