Brain Damage In Addicts May Lead To Repeated Drug Use
When most people find out that an addict has relapsed, during or after the rehab process, the first thought in mind might pertain to some unsatisfactory notions. We may come to believe it is their "fault." For example, some people might think of them as weak, unintelligent or even as bad individuals. The stigma surrounding drug addiction is a strong one that has persisted for generations. But something we all need to come to understand is that drug addiction changes the chemistry and function of an individual's mind. In most cases, relapses do not occur due to low quality characteristics. More often than not, the relapse is due to brain damage in which the individual has little to no control over how and why it still affects them.
To understand this concept it is vital that the mechanics of addiction and the brain are explained. Non-addicted individuals crave food and water on a daily basis. The sustenance that keeps us alive is an automatic want and need processed by our brain. This part is simple enough to grasp. In order to live, people need to eat and drink, and so the brain causes feelings of hunger, thirst and an almost automatic desire to obtain and consume the items. The actual act of eating or drinking something does not just sustain our bodies however. There is a reaction in the brain that occurs, mainly in the reward system of the brain. Once a hungry person eats, chemicals are released in the brain, dopamine and serotonin which make the individual feel good, even on a minute scale. This reinforces that eating is good. Aside from the fact that we know eating is essential to living, the brain reinforces the notion by making it pleasurable intrinsically.
For an addict, this same process occurs when they abuse a substance. Most drugs cause overproduction of one or more naturally produced chemicals in the brain that deliver sensations of relaxation, euphoria and pleasure. Over time, and in some cases after just a couple uses of a drug, the brain becomes accustomed to the overproduction and begins to crave it. Even further down the line, this craving and need for the substance becomes as automatic as the need for food and water. This results in the addict suffering not just from a lack of will power or intelligence, but more so a basic instinct that has developed in the brain.
Consider an individual who is starving. Perhaps they have not eaten in one or two days. Their stomachs are growling and very likely in pain. Their minds are focused on getting food, tasting foods and picking the best ones that they want most immediately. An addict who has an established dependence on a substance experiences the exact same cravings that reach beyond just a personal want, and into a biological need.
It is this kind of change in the brain that necessitates such focus and effort in order for addicts to successfully complete addiction treatment and continue to remain sober thereafter. It is also why loved ones, and those who attempt to help recovering addicts need to fully understand the challenge that individual is up against. Ridicule and blame is the least warranted reaction in these cases. The recovering addict is attempting to rewire their own brain in a sense, and it is no simple act.
For more information on our addiction treatment programs and therapeutic approaches, call toll free at: 800-960-5041. Florida Center for Recovery offers residential drug and alcohol rehab treatment through 12-Step and Non 12-Step Programs.