How Addiction Changes the Brain

Part 1 of a 2-Part Series

by Beth Wright

A memorable 1980’s television commercial by The Partnership for a Drug Free America opens up on a shot of a butter sizzling in a hot frying pain. An announcer said, “This is drugs.” Then, as someone holds an egg, the announcer says, “This is your brain,” before cracking the egg into the pan. The voiceover continues: “This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?” Although the foundation that sponsored the ad has since changed its name to The Partnership for Drug Free Kids, their message remains the same: drugs significantly impact the brain. Don’t do drugs.

Drugs effect on brain MFI

How Drugs Affect the Brain

While addiction professionals and addicts understand that addiction is a chronic disease, individuals who struggle with addiction often believe that the underlying issue is a matter of willpower. Such is not the case! Addiction is far from simply a matter of sheer willpower:

  • Addiction is a disease of the brain.
  • It occurs in incredibly intelligent, high-functioning individuals and does not discriminate.
  • The brain is the main player in addiction.
  • Countless areas of the brain are affected by addiction.

Drugs effect on brain and GeneticsWhile experts understand which areas and receptors can be affected by addiction, as of yet, no one can tell when a child is born if he or she will become an addict. Research tells us that genetics and environment both contribute to addiction. And, to date, despite ongoing research, science has yet to identify the exact gene that causes addiction.

Genetic ParadoxParadox Genetics Drugs Brain Activity

A child born to two addicts is highly genetically predisposed to addiction. However, he or she may grow up never touching a substance. On the other hand, another child, whose parents have no history or use let alone addiction, may become highly addicted. In some cases, great-grandparents were alcoholics and or another unknown genetic predisposition may exist.  Hereditary or not, whether someone becomes addicted remains a guessing game.

Your Brain on Drugs

The brain reward system (or amygdala and frontal cortex) are two areas that drugs significantly impact. Brain structure and function are both altered by addiction. An addict becomes trapped in the endless cycle of craving, intoxication, and withdrawal – which leads to cravings, intoxication and withdrawal – in what may become an endless cycle.

Brain reward center drugsThe greater the amount of substance used, the more substantial the associated brain damage. In the simplest terms, the addict becomes motivated by a reward system. All rational thought becomes secondary. Motivation for all behavior stems from the addict’s belief that the drug is necessary for survival.

In most cases, the mid-brain starts to run the show, overriding rational thought from the frontal cortex. For example, an addict may decide to sell the family jewels for meth or spend their last dime on a gram of heroin even if their rent payment is past due. With prolonged use, the individual will no longer feel able to cope with emotions without the use of their drug of choice (DOC). Living without the drug feels unbearable because the midbrain believes the drug is necessary to survive. In many cases, the desire for drugs overrides the need for food, shelter, clothing, sex…and other basic human needs.

Check back next week, as we conclude our series about what drugs do to the brain.

About Mt Rubidoux MFIConcept : Addiction ? We can help!

Our treatment center provides services to people who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse. Located in the shadow of Mt. Rubidoux in the City of Riverside, we provide structured and supportive addiction treatment in semi-private, comfortable apartment-style setting. Monitored by professional addiction specialists 24 hours a day, our modern apartments offer a haven for healing during the rehab process. Living and recovering in our Mt. Rubidoux residential treatment facility means becoming healthy again. Our clients receive intensive treatment and learn new, healthy strategies to sustain recovery. To find out more, call today 866-218-4697, or for non-admission related information, contact us at 951-683-6596.

About MFI RecoveryWays of help for drug addicted.

Throughout 10 facilities in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, we employ the Matrix-Method for each individual client, creating a personalized treatment program. Various modalities can include behavior modification, 12-Step recovery program introduction, cognitive behavioral therapy, and family systems techniques, including the family in group therapy. Treatment options include outpatient and inpatient detox, medication management (if appropriate), group therapy, individual therapy, relapse prevention education, and ongoing support after treatment. To find out more, call today (866) 218-4697, or for non-admission related information, contact us at (951) 683-6596.

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