When you struggle with addiction, your entire body struggles. The hardest hit by substance abuse is your brain, which is the center of all functions for the rest of your body. The good news is that when you decide to begin recovery, you’re also choosing to pursue healing your brain after addiction. Your brain plays a vital role in your long-term sobriety and life after addiction. At Soul Surgery Rehabilitation, we’re here to walk alongside you as your brain and body begin the new journey of sobriety.
Your Brain’s Role In Addiction
You most likely know that your brain is essential to all bodily functions, including all physical activity and even physical cravings. Your brain controls every aspect of your life. From breathing to thinking, whether consciously or unconsciously, your brain is in charge.
Many liken the brain to a sophisticated computer processor, running thousands of messages from body part to body part through a complex system of neural fibers and neurotransmitters. Your brain is responsible for doing thousands of things all at once. You’re probably not even aware of how many complex decisions your brain is making as it uses information that is gathered from neurotransmitters and neural receptors.
It’s those neurotransmitters that become so critical when it comes to substance misuse and addiction. Your brain has about 100 different types of neurotransmitters that relay information from cell to cell in your body, but about 99% of the work your brain does uses only 10 or so neurotransmitters. When there is a breakdown in those neurotransmitters, a physical and mental breakdown occurs. This can be caused by a substance that is inappropriately affecting that neural transmission.
This is what happens when you use drugs. Drugs of any type—prescription, over-the-counter, illicit, etc.—change the chemistry of your brain. All drugs have more than one effect on your brain, and typically, substance use will have a mental and physical impact on you.
For instance, alcohol may reduce your inhibitions and make you seem more gregarious and outgoing. However, it also depresses your respiratory functions, and this is where danger can come in.
Your brain is where the ‘pleasure center’ of the body is located. It’s not necessarily in one place in your brain. Instead, it is a group of connected glands and neurotransmitters that are responsible for behavior. Your pituitary gland is the part of the reward system that sends pleasurable feelings throughout your body. Your brain’s reward system is wired so that you’ll repeat actions that bring those pleasurable feelings to your body. In effect, your brain positively reinforces ‘good feelings’ by stimulating you to repeat the action that brought the feelings on.
This is, at the core, how addiction is explicitly tied to your brain.
How Different Drugs Affect Your Brain
Different drugs do different things to your brain, though there is often some overlap in effect with certain substances.
Typically speaking, specific classes of drugs affect your brain in the following ways:
Common depressants that are misused are benzodiazepines like Xanax, Klonipin, and Librium or barbituates like Amytal, Nembutal, and Seconal. Depressants slow your brain activity and significantly affect critical bodily functions. They are highly addictive.
Hallucinogens alter your thinking processes and perception. Common hallucinogenic drugs are LSD, PCP (phencyclidine) and Ketamine (Special K). Hallucinogens can also increase your heart rate and anxiety level.
Commonly misused opioids are morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, heroin, and fentanyl. Many of these drugs are prescription medicines used for pain relief as they depress your central nervous system and major bodily functions. They are also highly addictive, as they activate your brain’s reward center and stimulate the production of dopamine (the feel-good hormone) in excessive quantities.
Stimulants increase activity in your brain and body. They are often referred to as ‘uppers,’ as they tend to produce short-term periods of euphoria in your body. They do so but also interfere with your brain’s reward system and affect your blood pressure, heart rate, and sleep. Commonly misused stimulants are cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamine.
Healing Your Brain After Addiction: The Repair
The research is out there. Addiction is a brain disease, and healing your brain after addiction is similar to healing your brain after traumatic brain injury in many cases. Addiction changes your brain’s original and natural chemical balance and wiring. To successfully recover from addiction, healing your brain after addiction is essential, as well.
The reality is that if you don’t work on healing your brain after addiction, you’re more likely to relapse because you’ve not addressed the brain trauma caused by your addiction. All too often, it’s thought that you can just ‘stop’ misusing substances, and you don’t even pay attention to healing your brain to fully recover.
But there’s hope for healing your brain after addiction! Whereas it was once thought that the brain could not repair itself after damage, neuroscience advances and research about the neuroplasticity (or the brain’s ability to repair and relearn) show otherwise.
Addiction is essentially neuroplasticity in action; it’s learning a new behavior that turns into a habit (although a bad one). With holistic interventions and intensive and effective therapy that Soul Surgery Rehabilitation offers, you can train your brain to learn new, positive behaviors and habits. Even learning how to enjoy them—substance-free. Now more than ever, it’s important that you seek treatment from experts who understand the relationship between interpersonal neurobiology and addiction recovery.
Soul Surgery Rehabilitation: Holistic Healing That Gives You New Life
If you’re struggling with addiction, you’re struggling with brain trauma. At Soul Surgery Rehabilitation, we understand that addiction is a disease of the body and the brain. We offer a full continuum of care at our premier facility. From intake to rehabilitation aftercare, we use cutting edge treatment protocols like cognitive behavior therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and holistic healing to rewire your brain for more positive and healthy choices.
Healing your brain after addiction is one of our biggest priorities. Doing so helps give you the best long-term sobriety opportunities. We’ll walk with you as you work to repair the damage drugs or alcohol have done to your brain. We want to teach you how to have fun in life while we believe that’s also a key to recovery. It’s never too late to take the first steps toward your new life; contact us today and let us help you be the you that you were meant to be.