Drug addiction doesn’t happen overnight – and the brain doesn’t heal overnight after long-term substance abuse either. While there are emotional and social scars caused by damage done during addiction, there are demonstrable changes that take place in the brain as well. These changes alter the patient’s cognitive and functional abilities, but with time and effective professional treatment, these changes can be reversed in many cases.
How Addiction Affects the Brain
Addiction is called a brain disease because it dramatically impacts the user’s brain from the first use. Chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters are significantly affected by the drug of choice. Many drugs cause a huge increase in dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is connected to positive feelings. The high caused by this release of dopamine is psychologically addictive.
Neurotransmitters are not the only thing affected in the brain by drug use. Memory, impulse control, and cravings – all these are affected by drug use too. Many drug users find it difficult to control their urge to get high, even when it means harming themselves or others, and almost any stressful or frustrating event triggers the need to use drugs or drink to excess.
How Treatment Can Help
An addicted person is almost exclusively controlled by his urge to get and stay high. He will put himself and those he loves in harm’s way in order to continually use his drug of choice, if necessary. Because the grip of addiction is so strong, professional treatment is required. An effective treatment program will help an addicted person to:
- Safely navigate detox and stop using their drug of choice right away
- Learn how to manage stressors without turning to drugs of abuse
- Identify triggers to relapse
- Create an actionable plan to address those triggers proactively and avoid relapse
- Work on long-term goals to improve quality of life
- Heal emotionally and spiritually
- Rebuild and create new and positive relationships in recovery
- Improve physical health
- Build self-confidence and self-esteem
Hope for the Future
Healing the brain is just as essential as addressing the physical harm caused by long-term drug addiction. Improved cognitive and kinetic functioning contributes to a generalized feeling of well-being that can increase the patient’s ability to focus on positive day-to-day activities. There is no magic fix to undo the damage done by drug and alcohol use. Rather, time and persistence are key to long-term recovery in this and every area of healing after addiction. Enrolling first in a comprehensive treatment program allows the patient to build a strong foundation in recovery. Continuing to remain actively engaged in the healing process through aftercare services is beneficial as well. Contact us at Michael’s House today to learn more about how we can help your loved one lay the foundation for long-term healing after drug and alcohol addiction. We can help your addicted family member create a unique treatment plan that will assist him in healing cognitively, physically and emotionally as he overcomes drug dependence. Get started today.