It’s no secret that drug and alcohol addiction affects our lives in so many ways. From our day-to-day activities and our work and family life to the physiological and emotional tolls drugs take, addiction’s impact is tremendous. Perhaps the most considerable toll taken is that on our brain, as addiction to drugs and alcohol brings damage to our brains at cellular levels.
However, repairing brain damage from addiction is possible. More and more research continues to show that it’s best achieved when one is actively involved with a rehab program committed to not only break the cycle of addiction but also work on repairing brain damage from addiction as well.
What Does Addiction Do To The Brain?
Aside from the apparent changes in personality and behaviors addiction to drugs or alcohol brings to a person’s life, there are significant biological changes to the brain as well. Because addictive substances bring a high or euphoric effect to the user, the brain becomes more and more inclined to continue using, and addiction begins.
But, as addiction begins and grows, one can also experience brain damage from repeated drug use. The constant and increasing consumption of drugs or alcohol can bring on seizure, stroke and other neurologically damaging effects that can even make it more difficult to break the addictive cycle.
Yes, the damage addiction does on the brain can impair it so much that simply deciding to break the habit and quit using the substance is not enough to end the dependence. In fact, a recent study found that the brain damage done by excessive alcohol use does not necessarily stop just because one abstains from alcohol. The effects can be seen as long as six-months after consumption. That’s why it’s imperative to find a rehab program committed to not only helping to break the addiction but also repairing brain damage from addiction.
Addiction Affects the Brain’s Messaging System
Research has found that long-term exposure to drugs like methamphetamine can specifically alter the cellular transporters and receptors of one’s brain. Those receptors, or neurotransmitters, are the mechanisms through which the brain sends and receives messages. They are most responsible for a person’s mood, and actions, and when consistently exposed to addictive substances, can bring about anxiety, apathy, rage, insomnia, depression, and irritability in behavior.
Obviously, these behaviors can damage relationships with family members and friends, as well as within work and social environments, and abstaining from the substance can normalize the neurotransmitter activity. The problem is that there’s no set time after quitting the substance, and abuse can leave the lingering effects for up to 18 months before fully reversed. Drug rehab programs like those at Ocean Hills Recovery recognize this and know that support for long-term brain recovery is critical.
A Rewired Brain from Addiction
Those addicted to drugs and alcohol most-often find the initial effects of the substance to bring them that ‘feel good’ reward to their bodies and brains. The high quickly turns to a low; the buzz is a hangover before an addict knows it.
And physiologically, our brains will crave those highs and buzzes and lead us to make decisions to bring them at whatever cost. The problem is that addiction and repeated substance abuse is what changes our brain’s circuitry – particularly the ones that control essential functions that control our impulses, our learning, memory and how we react to stress. This rewiring of our reward system is what is mainly responsible for the substance cravings one has.
Substance abuse also changes how our body reacts to pleasures and rewards and rewires the circuitry in our brain, making it even harder to find joy and reward in more ‘normal’ experiences. Because addiction does this, experiences like positive social interactions, food or smells, sex, and other enjoyable experiences don’t bring an addict the same pleasure and joy that they did before addiction. This makes it even harder for one to take the first steps to breaking the addiction and repairing brain damage from addiction.
This is yet another reason why finding a rehab program committed to your long-term recovery success is so important.
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How Does Rehab Aid In Repairing Brain Damage From Addiction?
A 2010 review of studies took a look at what restoration of brain function and damage looked like after one abstained from the use of addictive substances. The analysis was done by the Department of Psychology and Center for Substance Abuse at Temple University and paid particular attention to recreational drugs like methamphetamine, cannabis, and MDMA.
What the research found was simply ceasing to use the substance did not immediately restore brain function and activity that the substances had affected. In fact, the data showed that even after six months of abstinence from substances, users still found themselves scoring lower on tests that assessed their verbal and motor skills as well as psychological tasks. The former users were compared to the abilities of those who had not used the substances, and the researchers found that improvement in those areas and more often occurred for users six-to-twelve months after they were no longer using the substance.
Obviously, the amount of time needed for brain repair to occur will be different in each individual. What won’t be different is the need for an experienced and compassionate program like that at Ocean Hills Recovery to walk those weeks and even months after as your brain rebuilds itself.
Addiction Medicine Specialist Dr. Lipi Roy says that because the brain is the most complex machine known to humans, the impact that addiction can have is tremendous. She says that addiction is a disease of the brain, a chronic medical illness and that once people with addiction get connected to the right treatment and recovery services, they have the best chance of restoring their brain functions and their lives.
What Can One Expect Of Brain Damage After Addiction Repair To Look Like?
Once you’ve taken the first steps to break the cycle of addiction and regain your life, you’ll begin to see changes in executive functioning, as well as the restoration of neurotransmitter activity. Those around you will see less rage and apathy, and begin to see more stabilized mood swings. You’ll have fewer emotional outbursts and periods of depression and anxiety. Because of the impact on your brain, you may still find yourself craving whatever it was that held you in bondage.
Those cravings were most likely brought on by the damage to your brain’s fasciculus retroflexus and ventral tegmental areas – the brain’s self-control panel, so to speak. That’s where the experienced staff at Ocean Hills Recovery steps in and walks hand in hand with you as you battle the cravings and the damage done to your brain. The best way to fight those cravings is committing to an extensive treatment plan like the programs offered at Ocean Hills Recovery. Ocean Hills offers a unique treatment approach called Collaborative Care, which is a cutting-edge treatment design that pairs 12-step recovery with a bio-psycho-social model that is customized individually for you and your needs in fighting addiction.
There Is Hope for Repairing Brain Damage from Addiction
Ocean Hills knows that given the right set of supports and conditions, the brain is capable of healing itself. The staff works diligently to educate and support while giving your brain what it needs to go through neurogenesis in recovery.
Healing the damage caused by long-term drug use starts with controlling cravings and reversing the brain chemistry that was changed by the abuse. The treatment options at Ocean Hills were explicitly designed to help you through their program to rid your body of addiction, and more, help reverse the brain damage that’s occurred as a result of your addiction. It’s possible to restore brain cognition, but you have to be willing to take the first steps and make the commitment to restoring your life too.
About the author:
Greg opened his home and heart to alcoholics and addicts in 2003. He is a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor (CATCI). Starting in 2009 Greg has fostered the growth of Ocean Hills Recovery into one of the most respected and effective treatment centers in the area and has been working with people with addictions since March of 2001. Greg believes in a holistic approach to recovery. His focus is on drug alcohol addiction treatment with a combination of 12 Step work, therapy and counseling, and the rejuvenation of the body through healthful eating and exercise. He has designed his program to foster a family-like atmosphere and believes that people in recovery are just beginning their lives. He encourages the people he works with to learn to enjoy life in sobriety. Greg is married to Nicole; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.