Understanding the Science of Addiction

Addiction is a complex disease that alters your body and brain for the worse. As you consume addictive substances, over time your brain becomes dependent on these substances, which can lead to fatal consequences. Understanding the science of addiction can be complex; however, it’s important to understand, especially if you are looking to progress along your recovery journey. Keep reading to learn more about the science of addiction below. 

At Sequoia Recovery Centers, we provide comprehensive substance abuse treatment in Washington so you can regain control of your health and quality of life. Our Spokane drug and alcohol detox center offers a wide array of Washington addiction treatment services so you can receive the level of care you need. Contact us today to learn how we can help you on your road to recovery.  

The Neurobiology Behind Addiction

Ever wonder about the science behind alcohol addiction? Or, how your brain changes as it develops an addiction?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is a chronic brain disorder that impacts the brain’s reward, stress, and self-control systems. When you think about drug addiction, you likely don’t consider addiction biology and the many changes the brain goes through as it falls deeper into drug dependency and subsequent addiction.

Your brain produces a certain amount of dopamine naturally through experiencing pleasurable events. When your body consumes addictive substances, these addictive substances deliver a spike of dopamine to the brain beyond the normal level you typically experience during your day-to-day life. This spike of dopamine released in the brain is what makes you experience a “high,” or a certain euphoric feeling. 

With repeated drug abuse, your brain adapts to expect these dopamine spikes from drug use. Because your brain expects these dopamine spikes, it also naturally produces less dopamine on its own. As you consume more and more of a drug with time, your brain needs to consume more of a substance as it builds tolerance. This is because your brain becomes accustomed to consuming and releasing a certain amount of dopamine. 

Withdrawal Symptoms Occur As the Brain Adapts Again

Overcoming addiction can be difficult because it involves changing your brain chemistry back to “normal” dopamine levels you used to experience prior to becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. When you start to detox, your brain is not used to the lack of dopamine, and so you may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that may even be life-threatening, depending on the severity of your addiction. Common withdrawal symptoms include nausea, irritability, racing heartbeat, insomnia, and more. 

Although your body will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms as your brain adapts during detox, it’s important to understand that these withdrawal symptoms don’t last forever. Typically, most patients who detox experience withdrawal symptoms for about 1-2 weeks as their brain and body adapt to no longer consuming any more drugs or alcohol. 

Why Addiction Recovery is a Lifelong Journey

As stated previously, addiction is a chronic brain disorder. Therefore, recovering from addiction is a lifelong journey filled with many ups and downs. Just because your brain and body overcame withdrawal symptoms during detox doesn’t mean you won’t be tempted by old triggers or cravings to abuse drugs or alcohol. 

Your brain will still be vulnerable to old triggers, cravings, and urges that could jeopardize your sobriety. This is why it’s so important that you not only avoid specific places, people, and situations that may increase your risk of relapsing, but you also need to practice healthy coping strategies. Healthy coping strategies will allow you to relieve stress in a healthy manner, rather than falling back into old unhealthy habits, like drug abuse, to try to relieve your stress. 

Ready to Start Your Road to Recovery?

Now you know more about the neuroscience of alcohol addiction and drug addiction. Addiction is a complex disease that impacts your brain and body likely more than you even realize. Understanding the science of addiction is critical so you realize how vulnerable your brain is to addictive substances. Overcoming addiction can be challenging, that’s why it’s vital you seek out professional support so you can safely and effectively break free of addiction.

At Sequoia Recovery Centers, we are committed to helping as many clients as possible along their sobriety journey. We’re here to help you every step of the way as you navigate recovery, build healthy coping strategies, and lead the healthier, happier life you’re meant to live.Ready to start your recovery journey? Contact us today!

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