Published On: March 16, 2020
Updated On: March 16, 2023
When you struggle with addiction, your entire body struggles. The hardest hit by substance abuse is your brain, the center of all functions for the rest of your body. The good news is that when you decide to begin recovery, you also choose to pursue healing your brain after addiction.
Your brain is vital to 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 sobriety journey.
In this blog, we’ll look at the following:
- What is the brain’s role in addiction?
- What parts of the brain are affected by drug use?
- How do drugs work in the brain?
- Can you rewire your brain from addiction?
The Brain’s Role in Addiction
Brain functionality connects to all bodily processes, including all physical activity and cravings. Your brain controls every aspect of your life. Whether consciously or unconsciously, your brain is in charge from breathing to thinking.
Many liken the human 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. The brain’s prefrontal cortex (PFC) makes complicated decisions based on the information and thought patterns gathered from neurotransmitters and neural receptors.
Neurotransmitters play a critical role in drug and alcohol abuse. Your brain has about 100 neurotransmitters that relay information from brain cell to brain cell in your body.
A physical and mental breakdown occurs when those neurotransmitters are broken down. The cause may be a substance that’s inappropriately affecting 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. The Pre-frontal cortex is responsible for things like impulse control, and the effects of drugs on the brain can contribute to impulsive and risky behaviors.
What Parts of the Brain are Affected By Drug Use?
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 inhibitions and make you seem more gregarious and outgoing. However, it also depresses your respiratory functions, where danger can occur.
Your brain is where the ‘pleasure center’ of the body is located. It’s not necessarily in one area of the brain. Instead, it’s a group of connected glands and neurotransmitters responsible for behavior. Your pituitary gland is 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. Your brain 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 Do Drugs Work in the 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:
Commonly misused depressants are benzodiazepines like Xanax, Klonopin, and Librium or barbituates like Amytal, Nembutal, and Seconal. Depressants slow your brain activity and significantly affect critical bodily functions. They’re 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 for pain relief that depress your central nervous system and significant bodily functions. They are also highly addictive, activating your brain’s reward center and stimulating excessive quantities of dopamine (the feel-good hormone).
Stimulants increase activity in your brain and body. They’re often referred to as ‘uppers,’ as they 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.
Can You Rewire Your Brain From Addiction?
The research is out there. Addiction is a brain disease, and healing your brain after drug and alcohol 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 recover from addiction, healing your brain after addiction is also essential.
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, we’re told that you can just ‘stop’ drug abuse and ignore healing your brain to recover fully.
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 neuroplasticity (or the brain’s ability to rebuild 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 vital 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
Struggling with addiction is struggling with brain trauma. At Soul Surgery Rehabilitation, we understand 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 addiction treatment protocols like cognitive behavioral 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, and 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 to learn more about how to get started in recovery.