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How Does Drug Abuse Affect the Brain?

Drug abuse causes major changes in the brain, leading to physical and mental health problems. The brain is a complex organ directly affected by substances that we put into our bodies. Overtime, the changes in our brain caused by drugs can create tolerance, physical dependence, and a variety of behavioral and mental health changes.

Continued use of addictive substances can lead to addiction and physical dependence. A 2011 Harvard Mental Health Letter entitled How Addiction Hijacks the Brain, explains, “Addiction exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain that manifests in three distinct ways: craving for the object of addiction, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences. While overcoming addiction is possible, the process is often long, slow, and complicated. It took years for researchers and policymakers to arrive at this understanding.” Eventually, these brain changes cause us to entirely lose control over our ability to regulate our drug use.

The brain can become addicted to any pleasure producing activity. When we take in a substance that makes us feel good, we become more likely to continue to use that substance. Overtime, addiction develops. Harvard Health explains, “According to the current theory about addiction, dopamine interacts with another neurotransmitter, glutamate, to take over the brain’s system of reward-related learning. This system has an important role in sustaining life because it links activities needed for human survival (such as eating and sex) with pleasure and reward. The reward circuit in the brain includes areas involved with motivation and memory as well as with pleasure. Addictive substances and behaviors stimulate the same circuit — and then overload it.” Eventually our drug of choice becomes the only thing that matters to us. We place our substance use over all other rewarding activities, including work, relationships, food, and sex.

Overcoming addiction requires healing the brain through detoxification and incorporating other forms of therapy and recovery-based activities to change behaviors. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “A patient may require varying combinations of services and treatment components during the course of treatment and recovery. In addition to counseling or psychotherapy, a patient may require medication, medical services, family therapy, parenting instruction, vocational rehabilitation, and/or social and legal services.” The brain will heal with time in sobriety, and we must summon the courage to seek help if we are to overcome our addictions and heal.

Your life can become one of happiness, joyousness, and freedom in sobriety. You can make the decision to seek help now and begin upon the rewarding journey of recovery. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, offers a Residential Treatment Program that includes medically-supported detoxification, maintenance care, individual therapies, counseling (including family therapy), and plans to help clients build life skills that will help them after discharge. For information about Residential Treatment and other treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431