Your Brain on Drugs: Understanding Drug Addiction

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http://www.yellowstonerecovery.com Drugs impact people in different ways and some have a stronger or more immediate detrimental impact than others. Despite the hold that drugs take over a person and the lasting physiological effects they have on the brain, treatment is possible. Utilizing a treatment facility is one way to receive the concentrated rehabilitation efforts that make recovery possible.

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Understanding Drug Addiction

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The brain’s many parts coordinate and perform all of the functions that make our daily lives possible. When drugs are introduced, they alter important life-sustaining functions and can drive the compulsive drug abuse that leads to addiction. The primary areas of the brain affected by drug use are: the brain stem , which controls basic functions critical to life such as breathing and heart rate; the cerebral cortex , which controls our senses and ability to think, plan, and solve problems; and the limbic system , which controls and regulates our ability to feel pleasure. Understanding how drugs affect the brain leads to understanding addiction and how addiction can be treated.

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Drugs tap into the brain’s communication system and interfere with how neurons send, receive, and process information. Almost all drugs that change the way the brain works do so by affecting chemical neurotransmission. For example: Heroin and LSD mimic the effects of a natural neurotransmitter. PCP blocks receptors and thus prevents neuronal messages from getting through. Cocaine interferes with the molecules that are responsible for transporting neurotransmitters back into the neurons that released them. Methamphetamine causes neurotransmitters to be released in greater amounts than normal. Prolonged drug use changes the brain in fundamental and long-lasting ways.

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Life sustaining activities, such as eating, activate a circuit of specialized nerve cells devoted to producing and regulating pleasure. One set of these nerve cells uses a chemical neurotransmitter called dopamine . Dopamine regulates movement, emotion, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. Most abused drugs target the brain’s reward system by flooding the circuit with dopamine. In a person who does not abuse drugs, this reward system is activated at normal levels making a person feel good when performing natural behaviors. In a person abusing drugs, it is highly over-stimulated and produces extremely euphoric effects.

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The brain compensates for the excessive amount of dopamine received during drug use by reducing the number of dopamine receptors, to dampen the response, and increasing the number of dopamine transporters that clear out the dopamine. As a result, the brain is less responsive to a drug, and next time, a drug user will have a higher tolerance and will need more of the drug to get high. As another consequence, the pleasure received from performing natural behaviors is severely diminished to the point of being barely noticeable. Drugs become necessary just to bring dopamine function back to normal.

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Addiction is also a consequence of behavioral conditioning. When your brain is accustomed to the idea that doing something will provide pleasure, such as eating dessert, just seeing a dessert or thinking about dessert will trigger a dopamine response. This is partly why it is difficult for drug addicts to stay sober. There are so many sights, sounds, and smells associated with getting high that make them want to fulfill the urge and get the actual high.

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More of the drug is needed to experience the same effects that were once associated with smaller amounts. Drugs are used to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, and anxiety. Drug use is no longer controllable and is in excess of what was planned. A lot of time is spent using and thinking about drugs, figuring out how to get drugs, and recovering from the drug’s effects. Enjoyable hobbies, sports, and socializing are no longer participated in. Despite major harm and problems, such as blackouts, infections, mood swings, depression, and paranoia, drugs are still used.

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Drug addiction risk is influenced by biology, social environment, and the age or stage of development. The more risk factors a person has, the more likely they’ll develop addiction. Biology : The genes that people are born with combined with environmental influences accounts for about half of addiction vulnerability. Additionally, gender, ethnicity, and the presence of other mental disorders may influence risk . Environment : A person’s environmental influences include family, friends, socioeconomic status, and quality of life in general. Factors such as peer pressure, physical or sexual abuse, stress, and quality of parenting can also greatly influence the occurrence of drug abuse. Development : Genetic and environmental factors interact with critical developmental stages in a person’s life to affect addiction vulnerability. Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, the earlier that drug use begins, the more likely it will progress to more serious abuse.

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Recovery is never out of reach, no matter how hopeless a situation seems. Change is possible with the right treatment and support and by addressing the root cause of the addiction. Support is essential and can be received in an inpatient or outpatient treatment facility. Recovering from drug addiction is much easier when a person has people to lean on for encouragement, comfort, and guidance. After the initial detoxification, which can be aided with medication to suppress withdrawal symptoms, drug treatment can include individual and group treatment with peers for a concentrated and extended period of time.

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Yellowstone Recovery has been helping people break free from drugs and alcohol for over 15 years and offers Southern Californians affordable treatment options, including detoxification, inpatient care, extended inpatient care, and outpatient care. Website: http://www.yellowstonerecovery.com Phone: (888) 904-3520

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