Drug Addiction

There’s a misconception that drug addiction simply requires someone to choose to stop using drugs, when, in reality, this is nearly impossible. Drugs are brain-altering substances that can make quitting seemingly impossible. We’ll explore what happens to the brain on drugs that makes it so hard to get sober and how to treat drug addiction for the long haul.

Like many other addictions, a drug addiction revolves around the psychological, and sometimes physical, need for drugs. DrugAbuse.gov notes that it’s a “chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the [addict] and to those around him or her.” This compulsion leads rather quickly to abuse and addiction. The reason? Repeated use (or sometimes just one use) of drugs alters your brain chemistry to the point that your body actually needs drugs to survive.

How Drugs Affect the Brain

Our brains have a multitude of chemicals that are released at certain times to help keep us healthy. Sometimes, these chemicals aren’t produced or are produced in excess, which can have drastic effects on us. For example, someone with depression may not produce enough dopamine and be put on medication that aids in dopamine production.

While our brains are magnificent machines, they can also be tricked easily by varying drugs. Some drugs have a similar cell structure as the brain’s neurotransmitters. The brain naturally creates these, but the drugs trick it into sending abnormal messages due to the similar structures of the cells. Another way drugs can get one up on the brain is through the over-production of these neurotransmitters (dopamine), which overloads the pleasure center of the brain. The excess dopamine is what causes that “feel good” high that abusers are typically hoping to achieve.

Creating repeated “feel good” sensations can be equated to Pavlov’s dog experiment. Every time he rang a bell and gave the dogs food, they drooled, even later in the experiment when there was no food. The dogs equated the bell with food. Drugs are training your brain to use drugs because it stimulates your brain’s pleasure center. Your brain learns to equate feel-good feelings with drugs and creates less dopamine when the addict isn’t high. Ultimately, this leads to the brain no longer processing the same experience of joy in more mundane experiences.  And this is why an addict can’t simply walk away from drugs.

Treatment for Drug Addiction

We always suggest prevention through education, but understand that sometimes, despite the best efforts, drug addiction prevails. If this does happen, there are a plethora of treatment options available. Therapy, paired with addiction treatment medication, has been proven effective. The key is a strong support system free of judgment. We recommend rehabilitation and therapy to achieve and maintain sobriety.

Addiction is a serious health problem that oftentimes requires the help of friends, family and a treatment center. Red Hawk Recovery offers a solid solution in Atlanta for sober living. Reach out today at 865.441.1020 or 404.906.8646.

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