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Ways addiction affect the brain

Ways addiction affect the brain

Ways addiction affect the brain

October 25th, 2017 | ASAH Team

The struggle to break free from addiction and restore normalcy in the lives of affected people are uniquely challenging. The personal and family struggles due to addiction are quite heartrending.

In the U.S., substance abuse is a huge problem, not only taking an emotional, psychological and social toll on the Americans, but also inflicts a financial burden of more than $740 billion annually on the entire nation. Such an increased burden is borne due to the spike in crime-related costs, lost work productivity, treatment-related costs, etc.

On the brighter side, recent scientific breakthroughs in the field of mental health have revolutionized our understanding of addiction as a complicated disease that affects the brain by restructuring the key pathways and impairing the pivotal functions.

While researchers have identified many of the biological and environmental risk factors, the search for genetic variations contributing to the development and progression of the disease is on. However, it is now a well-understood fact that addiction is a disorder that affects both brain and behavior. Fortunately, scientists have also been able to pinpoint the regions adversely impacted by addiction.

Changes in brain reward system prioritizes substance abuse

The human brain is a complex organ that is responsible for every voluntary and involuntary movement of the body, ranging from basic motor skills, heart and breathing rates, emotions, behaviors and decision-making. The part of the brain responsible for substance-seeking behaviors due to the production of pleasurable feelings is the limbic system. The changes inflicted in the ‘brain reward system’ leads to the surge of an overwhelming and involuntary need to abuse substance of choice despite the repercussions.

The above changes in the brain reward system encourages habitual use of substances like alcohol, drugs, etc. The repeated use of any substance builds up dependence that eventually transitions to addiction due to the structural changes in the brain. As a result, substance abuse become the top priority than other activities.

Moreover, substance abuse is responsible for activating the brain reward system. The natural ability of human beings to adapt and survive is in part linked to doing what is beneficial that activates the brain reward system. The frequent indulgence in substance abuse leads the brain to assume that some necessary action is being taken for survival and therefore strives to reward that behavior by creating the feeling of pleasure.

 Surge in the level of dopamine leads to addiction

Dopamine is a natural chemical in the brain that performs a gamut of functions. It is known to transmit signals to the limbic system of the brain by binding to neuroreceptors and is therefore also known as a neurotransmitter. Compared to the substance-seeking behaviors, other normal behaviors associated with eating, drinking, reading, listening to music, etc. do not exert such an influence on the brain. This is due to the tendency of substance-seeking activities to produce more than the normal levels of dopamine.

When addictive substances are introduced in the system of a person, they cause an overproduction of dopamine in the brain up to 10 times more than natural reward behaviors. Substance use floods the neuroreceptors with dopamine and rewires the brain for addiction. The flooding of dopamine causes the ‘high’ to which users gradually become addicted. As a result, they seek the substance frequently to restore the high levels of dopamine. With continued substance abuse, substances take the reward system hostage and the brain is unable to produce the normal levels of dopamine naturally.

Addiction is treatable

Undoubtedly, addiction is a brain disease; however, it is treatable. People in recovery must realize that treatment is an ongoing process and requires determination and support from friends and family. With an increased chance of a relapse, it is a difficult task to become sober again. However, it is certainly not impossible.

If you or someone you know needs help in recovering from substance abuse, contact the Arizona Substance Abuse Helpline to get details about the best substance abuse treatment centers in Arizona. You can call us at our 24/7 number 866-857-5777 or chat online with our experts to get more information on professionally managed substance abuse rehab clinic in Arizona.

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