How Does A Drug Overdose Affect The Brain
Permanent damage to the brain can occur from a nonlethal drug overdose. Prescription opioids used to treat pain and the illicit drug heroin can have a depressant effect on the respiratory system, slowing the delivery of oxygen to the brain. Lack of oxygen, or hypoxia, poses a significant risk of brain injury.
Why Do Some People Get Addicted But Others Dont
Substance use alone doesnt cause addiction. Addiction is a complex illness that arises in a person based on their unique circumstances. These are the most commonly identified risk factors for addiction:
Biology: Scientific research has shown that 4060% of the likelihood that a person will develop addiction comes from genetics. This includes both a family history of the illness as well as epigenetics, which are “the effects environmental factors have on a person’s gene expression.” Plus, if you have a behavioral health disorder like depression or anxiety, your risk of addiction also increases.
Environment: Exposure to traumatic experiences has been shown to increase a person’s risk of developing a substance use disorder. These experiences could happen at school, at home, or out in the community.
Using drugs for the first time at a youngage can also increase addiction risk. Also, snorting or injecting drugs can increase the risk of becoming addicted to those drugs, due to the extreme way the drug is delivered into the body .
So, why do some people become addicted when others dont? Ultimately, the answer lies in a persons unique brain chemistry and lived experiences. Most people who develop addiction are looking to heal or soothe themselves in some way. Its crucial to understand why that is, and work to address it, as part of a persons treatment plan and journey to recovery.
Helping The Brain Recover From Addiction
Research on the brains recovery is limited and still relatively new. Less than a century ago, scientists thought the mature brain stopped developing new cells we now know the brain continues to create new cells and neural pathways. However, addiction recovery takes time, discipline, support, and patience. Before the brain can begin healing, the body must be clean of any residual substance. Detox can take several days to several weeks, depending on the substance and how long an individual has struggled with addiction.
The brain will start recovering the volume of lost grey matter within one week of the last drink with alcohol. Other areas of the brain and the white matter in the pre-frontal cortex take several months or longer to recover.
Rebuilding the neural pathways to reinforce healthier choices and habits depends on each individuals circumstances. Opioids and cocaine are highly addictive, which makes them more challenging to re-configure deeply ingrained neural circuits. Additionally, the longer a substance is abused, the more solidified the neural pathway for that behavior becomes.
Most drugs change dopamine levels. Many variables determine whether or not the brains capacity to release and re-uptake dopamine will ever fully recover. In addition to the specific substance and length of use, dopamine recovery depends on a persons age, genetics, mental health, and how many drugs were used simultaneously.
How Does Spirituality Change The Brain
The following article by Dr. Mark Gold, recently published on the Addiction Policy Forum Blog, explores the growing body of research about what regions of the brain are changed during a persons spiritual practice. It presents compelling ideas for how fellowship and treatment programs can empower individuals in recovery to use spirituality as a proven tool to improve their mental health.
Spirituality can be an important component of recovery from addiction, as it can be a key way for a person seeking recovery to connect to something outside themselves spiritual practices have long been cornerstones of mutual aid groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Recently, researchers and those looking at trends have concluded that Americans are becoming less religious but at the same time identify as more spiritual. Spiritual engagement can be a way to find, as the authors in the study write, a sense of union with something larger than oneself. In a recent study of the brain done at Yale directed by Dr. Mark Potenza, Neural Correlates of Spiritual Experiences, scientists used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging to examine exactly how spirituality activated or deactivated, certain regions of the brain, changing how people perceive and interact with the world around them.
How do we Measure the Effect of Spirituality?
How Does Spirituality Change the Brain?
The area highlighted in blue is the Inferior Parietal Lobe, which is associated with perceptual processing
What Is The Brain Disease Model Of Addiction
The disease model of addiction, which arose in the 1950s to counteract the view of addiction as a moral failing, is based on the observation that addiction involves biological changes in the brain. The brain alterations change the way the brain worksnotably in the dopamine systemto create the craving, the progressive inability to exert control, and other dysfunctions associated with substance use.
The view of addiction as a disease is consonant with some facts about the condition. It suggests that drug use is difficult to quit. It has prompted the development of pharmaceuticals that can ease withdrawal symptoms. The disease model of addiction, studies show, also fosters more compassionate attitudes towards those who are addicted and more human treatment. Addiction is also viewed as a disease in order to facilitate insurance coverage of any treatment.
In addition, mounting evidence suggests that the brain changes of addiction do not reflect abnormal processesthey are the same processes involved in all learning. And the addicted brain returns to normal, gradually rewiring itself after substance use stops.
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How Does Addiction Hijack The Brain
The very fast and very intense flood of dopamine generated by taking a drug of abuse motivates repetition of the drug-taking. Under the influence of dopamine, that repetition changes the wiring of the brain in ways to increase the drug-wanting and decrease the ability to regulate the drug usage. What starts as a choice becomes so deeply wired into the brain that the machinery of desire operates automatically, and the machinery of attention narrows focus to the drug and getting it. The brain loses the capacity to respond to other potentially rewarding activities. The desire for reward ultimately becomes a prison from which it is difficultbut not impossibleto escape.
Can The Brain Heal Itself After Addiction
The brain is a remarkable organ, capable of incredible breakthroughs and life-changing ideas and actions. Yet because of its delicate structure and chemistry, the brain is also highly vulnerable to addiction.
Fortunately, researchers have found that brains that have been harmed by addiction do have the potential to unlearn addictive behaviors, although the risk for addiction never magically disappears.
Researchers have studied several different ways that the brain has adjusted back to a baseline level during and after addiction treatment. A 2013 study published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviorsfound that incorporating mindfulness and meditation into addiction treatment could lessen the risk of relapse. The study also indicates that brain pathways that can trigger relapse may be retrained by mindfulness practice.
Another study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that individuals who chronically used methamphetamines had lower numbers of dopamine proteins than individuals who did not use the drug. As a result, methamphetamine users frequently suffered challenges with movement and memory and may have been at a higher risk for Parkinsons disease. Researchers found that 12 months of recovery led to an increased number of dopamine proteins These findings suggest that the brain can begin to heal itself in the aftermath of drug use.
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The Problem With Allostasis
Your brain is incredibly adaptive, but that ability to create a new balance point through allostasis can change how your brain functions. The change in the balance point triggers particular behaviors and urges, including:
- The need to get or ingest drugs: The new brain chemistry makes obtaining the drug the most important goal, regardless of consequences. This can cause people to hurt themselves or others, bankrupt themselves or commit crimes in order to get drugs.
- Difficulty quitting: Ending the addiction is extremely hard, as the brain’s new balance point is dependent on the drug’s influence.
- Lack of Interest in Other Activities: The new brain balance means that feeding the addiction is all that matters other priorities, such as work or family obligations, become minimized.
Once homeostasis has been changed and allostasis achieved, the brain requires the addictive substance in order to maintain this new balance point.
# 4 Addiction Changes The Structures In The Brain
The brain is composed of many different regions and structures. The communication of the brain system allows these different regions to manage their activities. Each of these different structures has its own purposes.
Addictions can alter these regions and structures and how the brain functions. It affects some regions and structures of the brain, such as:
- Withdrawal effects, and relapse triggers
- Stress regulation and withdrawal.
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How Do Drugs Produce Pleasure
Pleasure or euphoriathe high from drugsis still poorly understood, but probably involves surges of chemical signaling compounds including the bodys natural opioids and other neurotransmitters in parts of the basal ganglia . When some drugs are taken, they can cause surges of these neurotransmitters much greater than the smaller bursts naturally produced in association with healthy rewards like eating, hearing or playing music, creative pursuits, or social interaction.
It was once thought that surges of the neurotransmitter dopamine produced by drugs directly caused the euphoria, but scientists now think dopamine has more to do with getting us to repeat pleasurable activities than with producing pleasure directly.
An Addicted Brain Causes Behavior Changes
Brain imaging studies from people with substance use disorders show changes in areas of the brain that are critical to judgment, decision making, learning and memory, and behavior control. Scientists believe that these changes alter the way the brain works and may help explain the compulsive and destructive behaviors of addiction.
A promising student might see his grades slip. A bubbly social butterfly might suddenly have trouble getting out of bed. A trustworthy sibling might start stealing or lying. Behavioral changes like these are directly linked to a changing brain.
Addiction also creates cravings. These cravings can be painful, constant, and distracting. Whats more, withdrawal from substances is a painful, whole-body experience. Once someone is addicted, responding to cravings and avoiding withdrawal become their most important needs.
Addiction can happen to anyone.
Its not about your background, where you grew up, or how much money you make. Addiction can happen to anyone. Still, researchers have identified what kinds of experiences and biological circumstances put some people at greater risk than others.
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Lsd Pcp Ketamine And Hallucinogens
A class of drugs that leads to distortions of reality and perceptions, hallucinogens are typically broken down into two main categories: classic hallucinogens and dissociative drugs , per NIDA. It is not certain exactly how these drugs work in the brain however, it is largely understood that they interrupt normal communication between neurotransmitters. Dissociative drugs are believed to disrupt the action of glutamate, a brain chemical that is involved with memories, cognition, emotions, and how people perceive pain. PCP interacts with dopamine as well, while salvia activates the kappa opioid receptor present on nerve cells, per NIDA. Dissociative drugs can make people feel separate from themselves, their environment, and reality. This can result in impaired motor functions, auditory and visual distortions, memory loss, anxiety, numbness, and body tremors.
Addiction Changes The Brains Chemistry
Our five senses gather and transmit information about our environment. Our brains must then process and analyze this information. Although the brain takes in and analyzes an extraordinary amount of information, it relies on a relatively simple electrochemical process for communication.
The brain’s communication system permits specific areas of the brain to rapidly interact with other brain regions. The brain achieves this communication through a vast, interconnected, network of specialized cells called neurons. Our brains have billions of these neuronal connections. These neuronal connections form the foundation for an electro-chemical communication system.
The brain is composed of many different regions . Each of these regions serves a different function. Therefore, these different regions of the brain must have a way to communicate with each other. In particular, the brain must communicate with, and coordinate, all the body’s life-sustaining systems . This is similar to how individual players on a sports team must communicate with other to coordinate their actions together as a team. Thus, the brain’s communication system is essential to our health, well-being, and overall functioning. Conversely, when this communication system is altered, it negatively affects us.
Neurotransmitters and receptors sites associated with addiction
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Drug Use Changes The Brain Over Time
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There Are Many Routes For Recovery And The Road May Take Time
Addiction is a chronic and often relapsing disorder. It is often preceded by other emotional problems. Nevertheless, people can and do recover from addiction, often on their own. If not on their own, people can recover with the help of their social network or a treatment provider. Usually, recovery from addiction requires many attempts. This can lead to feelings of frustration and helplessness. Smoking is often considered one of the most difficult expressions of addiction to change. Yet, the vast majority of smokers who stopped quit on their own! Others stopped smoking with the help of professional treatment. It is important to remember that the process of overcoming an addiction often requires many attempts. Each attempt provides an important learning opportunity that changes experience and, despite the difficulties, moves recovering people closer to their objectives. There are many pathways into addiction and many routes to recovery. Think about recovery from addiction as a five-year process that will have its ups and downs after about five years, life can and will be very different. As life becomes more worth living, addiction loses its influence.
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Driven By Compulsion Or Free To Choose
A major criticism of the brain disease view of addiction, and one that is related to the issue of determinism vs indeterminism, centers around the term compulsivity and the different meanings it is given. Prominent addiction theories state that addiction is characterized by a transition from controlled to compulsive drug seeking and taking , but allocate somewhat different meanings to compulsivity. By some accounts, compulsive substance use is habitual and insensitive to its outcomes . Others refer to compulsive use as a result of increasing incentive value of drug associated cues , while others view it as driven by a recruitment of systems that encode negative affective states .
How Do Opiates Change The Brain
Opiate effects modify the way that the brain processes stress and pain. When the body becomes dependent on opioids, it can lose its ability to tolerate pain on its own. Research suggests that prolonged opiate use can reduce the bodys innate pain-fighting abilities. As a result, the person using opioids needs to rely on them to relieve pain. Due to this phenomenon, a person undergoing withdrawal can have increased feelings of pain.
When a person with an opioid dependence receives the normal amount of opioids for relieving pain, they dont experience the intended effects. Their brain needs an increased number of opioids to occupy all its receptors. Since opioid receptors regulate mood and emotion, prolonged opiate use can have a negative effect on these functions. The reliance on opioids to manage mood can make opiate use disorder more difficult to experience.
Opioid use may also have a link to mental health symptoms. People who have mental health conditions without knowledge of healthy coping skills have a higher chance of developing an addiction. When someone has an opioid use disorder because of their mental health, they are victims of a disease not a moral failure. They have an increased risk that we can address during treatment.
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Today More Doctors Policymakers And Everyday Americans Are Embracing The Science Of Addiction
Thats good news. But its important to remember that addiction has always been an illnesseven when our health care systems were most hostile to the idea, and even when the people American culture primarily associated with drugs and addiction were Black or Latinx Americans. Learn about the social impact of addiction in America.
The Brain Addiction And Withdrawal
As a consequence of drug addiction, the brain rewards the harmful behavior. It encourages drug addiction, keeping the individual in a cycle of highs and lows the user may feel like theyre on an emotional roller-coaster, feeling desperation and depression without their substance of abuse. Once someone suddenly stops using, there are harsh mental, physical, and emotional results. Individuals may experience distressing symptoms they cannot ignore for some substances withdrawal symptoms are generally stronger for some substances than others.
At the point of withdrawal, someone who stops using Heroin experiences intense cravings, depression, anxiety, and sweating. Much of this is due to the rewiring of the brain after extended Heroin use. In this stage, the individual may not have a full-blown addiction a tolerance or dependency may have developed, however. Over time, the high volume of chemicals floods the brain the brain correspondingly adapts to the mental effects of the substance. The brain then reduces its production of neurotransmitters, chemical messengers in the brain. Withdrawal symptoms often need professional treatment, which can significantly help reduce the chance of relapse and the risks of stroke and heart attack.
Break free from addiction.
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