Your brain is remarkable. It regulates your body’s vital functions, helps you to understand experiences and forms your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. In order to function, it is constantly sending messages between brain cells using chemicals called neurotransmitters, something which you don’t even know is happening until perhaps you take a mood-altering substance. Substances like alcohol or drugs affect the chemical functioning of the brain to produce pleasant feelings. This makes us want to repeat the action but it is all too easy for the delicate chemical balance of the brain to be disrupted and addiction is the most obvious example of this.
The brain is wired for your survival. Activities such as eating and sex (for reproduction) are rewarded by the release of certain chemicals in a part of the brain known as the pleasure center. This is to encourage you to repeat that behavior and survive. Some drugs produce huge amounts of the pleasure chemical (dopamine) and the effects last longer and are more powerful than rewards from natural behaviors like eating, so this explains why addictive behavior develops as the brain’s functions become hijacked by a combination of in-built mechanisms for survival and chemicals which produce pleasant feelings.
What happens in addiction is that long-term or frequent drug use causes the brain to adjust the levels of chemicals it produces naturally. It produces less dopamine and also reduces the number of receptors. This means that your natural ability to experience any pleasure is reduced. You become compelled to take the drug, potentially in greater quantities in order to achieve the same effect, known as tolerance, until eventually, drug taking becomes an exercise in just feeling normal. Without the drug, your brain will be making you feel the opposite of pleasure due to the change in chemistry and this is known as withdrawal.
Long term drug-taking reconditions the brain so that cravings are triggered when cues appear. It becomes a learned reflex and is very difficult to overcome without professional help and guidance. Learned behaviors can be changed but you can’t do it alone.
At CASA Recovery in San Juan Capistrano, CA we understand how your brain works on addiction. Our expert staff can provide you with a personalized treatment program based on your individual needs. We want to help you take back control of your life and can help you escape the cycle of addiction using the best means for you. It is easy to become addicted but rehab and recovery are also possible with expert help and support. Contact us today for more information. You and your brain can change for the better!