The brain controls our thoughts, memory and speech, movement of the arms and legs, and the function of many organs within our body. The central nervous system (CNS) is composed of the brain and spinal cord. Addiction is a brain disease that makes physical and physiological changes to the brain. The brain adapts to environmental changes and governs our intelligence, ability to form memories, and learn.
The effects of dopamine
Drugs and alcohol affect the brain’s neurotransmitters, which release an excess level of dopamine causing temporary pleasurable feelings and euphoria. According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, How Addiction Hijacks the Brain (2011), “Dopamine not only contributes to the experience of pleasure but also plays a role in learning and memory — two key elements in the transition from liking something to becoming addicted to it.”
The brain eventually adapts to the quantity of drugs or alcohol used, making the sought-after substance or activity less pleasurable. At that point, it becomes increasingly difficult to get the release of more dopamine to feel the same pleasure. This is why a person craves more drugs or alcohol with higher potency or more risky and addictive activities.
How the brain changes
Some drugs have toxic effects that can kill neurons in the brain. Most of these cells will not be replaced. While changes to connections between neurons in the brain may not be permanent, some last for months or even years. (University of Utah, Genetic Science Learning Center).
Drugs and alcohol affect major organ function and can lead to heart disease, liver failure, some types of cancer, kidney failure, overdose, and death. Drugs and alcohol affect the brain’s ability to form and store important memories. These substances also can cause irreversible brain damage. Neurological damage is associated with nearly all drugs or alcohol, and chronic use can lead to irreversible brain damage. (Sober College, School of Addiction Studies).
Getting help for addiction
Although some people understand the cycle of addiction and how it changes their brain, they cannot stop using on their own. It will take time, a good treatment program, and commitment to lifestyle changes for a person to have the best success in recovery. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, do not wait to get help. Addiction is complex, but treatment is available, and recovery is possible. Get help today so you can enjoy a fulfilling, meaningful life in sobriety.
The Fort Worth Recovery umbrella covers medically supervised detox, as well as residential programs for men and women alike. Our programs are abstinence-based and combine a 12-step approach with a strong mental health component, integrating cutting-edge techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), Somatic Experiencing, and Motivational Interviewing. For more information or to start your healing journey, please fill out a contact request form and one of our recovery experts will connect with you shortly.