There are billions of neurons in the brain, all of which are connected by neural pathways. Children’s brains construct and change these pathways with relative ease as they develop and learn. This is known as neuroplasticity. The brain has built the majority of its neural pathways by the age of twenty-five, and its adaptability has drastically decreased.
Repetitive tasks become “automatic” or habitual when the brain uses neural pathways as efficiently as feasible. The brain embeds circuits that are used frequently deeper into the brain, making it more difficult to change their paths. Imagine repeatedly dragging the blade of scissors across cardboard along the same line; the groove will become more prominent. The brain, thankfully, is more malleable than cardboard. Adults can modify their brains, however, it takes more time and effort than it does for children to change neural pathways. One may need help from a treatment center such as Maudsley Health in the Middle East.
Individuals who participate in addictive activities must change their adult brains. People still follow the pleasure-reward system that our forefathers employed to survive even in today’s high-tech world. When an activity, event, or feeling is fulfilling or enjoyable, the brain releases dopamine, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter. People repeat a stimulating action or thinking to receive more of that pleasant experience.
The neurotransmitters and neurological pathways in the brain are affected by alcohol and drugs. Simultaneously, the brain tries to preserve equilibrium. As a consequence, the brain adapts when drugs and alcohol alter the chemistry of the brain. When the brain has become accustomed to the adaptation, it will desire to “fix” an imbalance when the substance is no longer available by taking it again. Substance abuse disorder alters the structure and function of the brain throughout time.
Because of the brain’s adaptability, these changes in neural circuits are feasible. Although the brain’s adaptability is astonishing and required for positive transformation, it may also adapt to develop undesirable habits, connections, and addictions. It is vital to seek immediate help for alcohol addiction treatment in Abu Dhabi to eliminate these bad habits.
Substance Use Affects Different Parts of the Brain [H2]
Substance use disorder (SUD) affects specific areas more than others, although alcohol and drugs affect the entire brain. In the article “Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction,” the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) outlines the effects of drugs on the brain, focusing on the overstimulation of three important brain areas: the basal ganglia, the extended amygdala, and the pre-frontal cortex.
- The pre-frontal cortex handles decision-making, logic, problem-solving, self-regulation, and impulse control in the brain. When drugs influence this part of the brain, the cognitive process is dominated by confusion and poor decisions.
- Negative emotions like anger, stress, anxiety and depression have been linked to the extended amygdala. When a drug departs the bloodstream, a person will feel these symptoms. Individuals frequently take additional medications to minimize the bad withdrawal symptoms, resulting in a feedback loop.
- Satisfying experiences such as enjoying a wonderful meal or having fun with friends are recognized by the basal ganglia, which is linked to the brain’s reward system. It loses sensitivity to natural neurotransmitters like dopamine when it is overstimulated by drug usage. Drugs will be the only trigger that stimulates this reward center if you continue to use them.
The cerebellum is affected by a variety of substances, including alcohol. The cerebellum aids muscle control and coordination, that’s why those who have consumed too many alcoholic beverages may stagger and zigzag when walking.
Consuming too much alcohol also slows cell growth and development by shrinking the gray and white matter of the cortex. Dehydration causes the dura, the protective layers that cover the brain, to shrink as well.
Even after no alcohol remains in the system, the loss of minerals and nutrients caused by binge drinking, defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as more than four drinks for females and five drinks for males, might impair brain performance.
Thankfully, stopping drinking for one week resulted in an increase in grey matter cell capacity according to alcohol addiction specialists. However, months after the last drink, the white matter and other parts of the brain are still recovering.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy, drugs like cocaine restrict blood flow to the brain. Blood flow can take months to return to its normal or near-normal levels after recovery. The frontal lobe of cocaine users still exhibits indications of recovery 4 to 6 months after their last use.
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Is It Possible for the Brain to Recover After Addiction? [H3]
There is no doubt that the brain is a remarkable organ, capable of incredible breakthroughs and life-changing acts. The brain, however, is especially sensitive to addiction due to its fragile form and chemistry. Researchers have shown that brains that were affected by addiction can “unlearn” addictive behaviors, while the threat of addiction never goes away completely.
Addiction treatment in Maudsley Hospital can help individuals adopt new behaviors and routines that can help “retrain” the brain to fit the new reality, in addition to changes in the brain’s chemical processes and physical structure. In many reputable treatment programs, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other forms of therapy are used to teach individuals how to establish alternative routines and ways of thinking that will help their brains adapt to their current situation.
To assist them to avoid typical relapse “triggers” and reducing their impact on the brain, individuals can also benefit from peer support and experienced therapists. Avoiding people, places, and events linked to addictive behaviors, as well as learning new strategies to cope with disruptive or difficult emotions or life circumstances, are some examples.
Supporting Addiction Recovery in the Brain [H4]
The amount of research on brain recovery is minimal and remains in its early stages. Scientists thought the mature brain ceased creating new cells less than a century ago; we currently understand the brain continues to build new cells and neural pathways.
Addiction recovery, on the other hand, demands discipline, support, time, and patience. The body must be free of any leftover substance before the brain may begin to mend. Depending on the drug and how long a person has struggled with addiction, detox can take anything from a few days to several weeks.
So, how long does it take for your brain to recover from alcohol and addiction? Within one week of the last alcoholic drink, the brain will begin to regain the volume of lost grey matter. Other parts of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex’s white matter, take months or even years to heal. The conditions of each individual determine how to rebuild brain pathways to reinforce healthy choices and habits. Because opioids and coke are highly addictive, rewiring deeply rooted brain pathways is more difficult. Furthermore, the longer a substance is misused, the more the neural pathway for that habit becomes established.
The majority of medications alter dopamine levels. Whether or not the brain’s ability to release and re-uptake dopamine can ever fully recover is determined by a number of factors. Dopamine rehabilitation is influenced by a person’s age, genetics, mental wellbeing, and the number of medications used at the same time, in addition to the substance and period of use.
The standard estimate for dopamine recovery is ninety days, according to several medical practitioners. Drugs, on the other hand, can cause long-term damage, with dopamine levels and brain cells taking a year or longer to heal. Some medicines can permanently destroy dopamine re-absorption receptors, making it impossible for the brain to fully recover.
The brain is a complicated organ with billions of neurons communicating with one another to sustain critical life functions, coordinate muscle action, and learn new skills. Neural pathways aid in the effectiveness of repetitive actions and behaviors, which is beneficial for healthy habits such as exercise, playing an instrument, or cooking. This same efficiency, on the other hand, might lead to substance abuse and make it more difficult to recover.
The brain, thankfully, has a high level of neuroplasticity. It has the ability to remodel neural pathways in order to eliminate self-destructive habits and behaviors and develop new pathways leading to healthy and sober lifestyle choices. The body and brain can recover from addiction with the help of health care providers, friends, and family, as well as patience and dedication.
Starting with the brain, we use a research-based approach at Maudsley Health UAE to help patients understand, manage, and overcome substance dependence. Call us to learn how we can help you heal from the effects of addiction and get on the road to long-term recovery.