If you have never struggled with an addiction, it might be easy to think it is just as simple as turning off a switch and saying “no” to the addictive substance. However, there is much more going on inside the brain that we cannot see. If you are the loved one of someone walking through an addiction right now, it is especially helpful to understand the nature of an addiction, how addiction changes the brain, and the ways treatment can help.
The Nature of Addiction
Our brains have a reward circuit in which we are rewarded with good feelings (most often caused by a release in the neurotransmitter dopamine) when we engage in something good like exercise, touch/time with loved ones, or eating. When a substance like alcohol or drugs is introduced, it can hijack the reward system, essentially overloading it with dopamine which will cause the person to seek the substance even more. There are many factors, including genetics, that may influence how likely a person is to become addicted once they are exposed to a substance.
How Addiction Changes the Brain
If we are tempted to do something that isn’t good for us (like eat junk food), our brain alerts us as we make the decision. Obviously, we might still choose to eat what isn’t good for us, but our brain is aware and we often feel bad afterward and make a better decision the next time. Repeated drug and alcohol abuse can change the wiring of the brain’s reward system as well as overall ability to exercise good judgement. Your brain actually begins to work against you and compels you to consume the substance at all costs. The longer the substance abuse, the more damage and rewiring of the brain can occur which can also lead to a whole host of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms if the person is without the substance.
The Rewiring of Treatment
Professional treatment can help to monitor and rewire the brain, essentially reprogramming the brain to seek what is good for the body. A variety of therapies and biofeedback can be helpful to this process. If you or your loved one is struggling with an addiction, seek out professional help by contacting Solace Asia at 012.885.4686 today.