What Do Brain Scans Of Addicted People Show
Though addiction can display itself in many different ways, from physical changes to behavioral responses, brain imaging and scans can also find signs of addiction in the brain itself.
Researchers who study how addiction changes the brain have found clear markers of addiction within brain chemistry and structure. Using technology like magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography scans, medical professionals can see inside the inner workings of the brain, both with an addictive state and without.
These scans show us that several different regions and pathways within the brain are affected by addiction. From an increase in neurotransmitters like dopamine to reduced or increased activity in particular brain regions, addiction has a direct impact on the brains structure, functioning, and health.
- A 2009 study published in the journal Neuropharmacology used PET scans to show the flow of dopamine to different regions of the brain in individuals who misused drugs. When researchers followed the dopamine through the brain, they found that dopamine levels were lower in parts of the brain that controlled repetitive or risk-taking behavior and decision making. Dopamine also affected areas of the brain that associated drug-taking with pleasure and stimulation, making it more likely the individual would take drugs again.
What Can You Do To Help Repair Your Brain
- When you remove drugs from your body, you give your brain a fresh start to restore its balance. At first, your brain and body will be thrown out of alignment by the sudden change. At that point, you might experience some symptoms of withdrawal. But as you continue and complete the detoxification process, you stimulate a re-adjustment of your brains natural chemical balance. You might think of detox as a way to jumpstart your brain just as you would jumpstart a car. Drugs have caused your brain to temporarily malfunction. Once your body and brain are free of drugs, however, you are able to jumpstart your brain and prepare it for treatment, where you will learn to ignore drug cravings and adjust to functioning without drugs in your life.
#2. Participate in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
#3. Take Up Mindfulness & Meditation
Another study found that mindfulness and mediation can lessen the risk of relapse. Other benefits of Mindfulness can include:
- Increasing the amount of grey matter in your brain, which helps your sensory perception, including eyesight and hearing. Increased grey matter also helps you make healthier decisions and exhibit self-control.
- Increasing the cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which increases your memory and ability to learn new habits and behaviors.
Communications In The Brain
Neurons send messages to each other by releasing neurotransmitters that cross a gap, or synapse, between them. The message causes the receiving cell to change and then different molecules recycle the neurotransmitter used to bridge the synapse.5 This is an extremely simplified explanation of one of natures most amazing systems.
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Leave Your Phone At Night
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The impact of cybersexaddiction may also impact the spouse, partner, or others inrelationships with the addict. The resulting effects on others mayinclude depression, weight gain, and lower self-esteem. If cybersexaddicts have children, their actions may also impact those children.
Using The Chemical Messenger Glutamate
Glutamate plays a role in the changes that synapses go through in response to experiences relating to learning and memory.17 Ketamine can help your brain to produce glutamate, which stimulates new neural connections in your brain. Strengthening these connections helps your brain regulate and process cognitive thoughts and emotions, impacting how you learn, remember, and respond to experiences.
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The Concept Of Neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity is the brains ability to restructure itself by creating new neural connections throughout our lives.41 Neuroplasticity allows the neurons/nerve cells in the brain to change in reaction to injury and disease and to adjust their activity to accommodate new situations or changes in the environment.
Brain reorganization occurs when undamaged axons grow new nerve endings to reconnect neurons whose links were injured or severed.42 Healthy axons can also sprout new nerve endings and connect with other healthy nerve cells to form new neural pathways that can improve brain functioning. For example, if one area of the brain is damaged, the healthy parts can take over some of the functions of the damaged portion to compensate for the damage .42
Sleep Hygiene For Recovery
Healthy sleep habits help you recover from addiction.
What Is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is the practice of having good sleeping habits. This includes:38
- Consistency going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning
- Making sure your room is quiet, dark and at a comfortable sleep temperature
- Not having electronic devices in the bedroom at night
- Avoiding large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bed
- Exercising during the day to help you fall asleep better at night
How Does Proper Sleep Help You Recover?
Substance use can drastically impact your sleep schedule, which can negatively affect your overall health. According to a study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, insomnia occurs five times as much in those in early recovery as in the general population.39 Substance disorders can also contribute to circadian rhythm disorders, parasomnias, and sleep apnea. 39
Sleep is critical in recovery because sleep deprivation can lead to a low mood, impulsivity, irritability, and poor emotional regulation which can increase the risk of relapse.40
Now that you are beginning to understand the importance of exercise, nutrition, and sleep, lets learn about the brains powerful ability to work around any damage caused by substance use. That ability is known as neuroplasticity.
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Recovery: Overcoming Triggers And Developing New Habits
Despite the dangerous toll drug usage and addiction can take on oneâs behavior and health, research shows that it is possible for the brain to recover from addiction, although the risk of it reappearing will always be there. In other words, the brain can be rewired so it no longer depends on drugs as a way to achieve a normal state of pleasure.
One of the difficulties when it comes to combating addiction is dealing with triggers–situations, environments, people, and feelings that release dopamine in the brain and create an intense urge to turn to drugs. While these triggers are often subconscious, meaning that people canât decipher what causes them, treatment can help people learn how to cope with them without having to turn back to drugs.
Part of the process of recovering from addiction is developing new neural pathways, standard routes in the brain that send signals between neurons. Addiction creates neural pathways in the brain since it alters its chemical state. When the drug is no longer being used, the brain is forced to create new neural pathways. This is difficult at first but becomes easier over time due to the brainâs neuroplasticity, or ability to change and reorganize these pathways, which can help squash self-destructive habits and choices and instead create alternative pathways that favor healthier life choices.
Acknowledging You Need Help
The first step on your recovery journey is your willingness to begin treatment.3Many times, this requires a traumatic event to shock you into accepting there is a problem. The shocking event may be an auto accident, arrest, divorce, a nearly lethal overdose, or many other traumas. Ideally, you will acknowledge treatment is needed before experiencing any of these traumas.
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Your Brain Builds Tolerance Over Time
To compound the problem, over time your brain builds a tolerance to the addictive substance. Your brain adapts to the usual amount of drugs it takes to become flooded with dopamine and glutamate, making you perceive the experience as less pleasurable than it originally was.
You then feel the need to take more of the substance to produce the same pleasurable effects. Tolerance is simply your brain adapting to the substance opioids, alcohol, nicotine so that you need more and more of it to feel the type of high that comes with it.
This vicious cycle of experiencing pleasure and building tolerance continues until eventually compulsion takes over. Even though you continue to experience less pleasure from the addictive drug, your memory of the desired effect motivates you compels you to continue wanting and needing the drug.
This type of conditioning plays a role in the intensity of your cravings, as well, making it hard to quit on your own without medications and therapy that help retrain your brain.
As part of our effective, multidisciplinary approach to helping you overcome addiction, we also offer NAD detox, a natural treatment that helps minimize cravings and restores balance to your brains neurotransmitters.
To learn more about addiction treatments and to get a personalized plan based on your needs, call our compassionate team at 425-243-5773 to schedule a consultation. You can also send us a message online anytime.
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How Addictive Behavior Works
People often use drugs as a way to escape the pain we experience in their day-to-day life. Although the relief and sense of euphoria achieved are usually temporary, the drug use provides an abundance of chemicals such as glutamate, adrenaline, endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin with just a single dose that cannot be reproduced in our daily lives. This is the beginning of chemical dependency and addictive behavior.
Addictive behavior is the response of our body to specific internal or external stimuli. Stress may be a stimulus for someone who may respond to the stress stimuli by overindulging in alcohol. If this stress and alcohol use connection continues over a long period, a neural pathway is created so that when the stimulus is presented, the body automatically reacts with the response of overindulging in alcohol.
In this addictive behavior example, taking a drink of alcohol may create a sense of euphoria that helps to reduce the stress you experience. The more the pressure is encountered, the more the neural pathway is fired towards the response of drinking alcohol so that we experience the euphoria we crave.
If we want to stop the addictive behavior, we must stop the response and find a new one. We will need to create a new neural pathway that does not connect addictive behavior to the stimuli.
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How To Rewire Your Brain
Activities that take advantage of neuroplasticity to help rewire your brain are:
Playing board games can help to teach your brain new skills. Board games can help with motor coordination, visual recognition, spatial navigation, memory, reaction time, decision making, problem-solving, and cooperation.43 Board games have experienced a renaissance recently, so there are many options to choose from. Here are examples of top-rated board games and the skills they help you build:
- and Kodama are board games that help spatial awareness
- Pandemic and Mysterium help with cooperation, visual recognition, and problem-solving
- Azul and Sagrada teach motor coordination and decision making
- Galaxy Trucker and Telestrations require reaction time to succeed
Learn a New Language
Learning a new language helps increase grey matter density in the brain, which is associated with attention, memory, emotions, and motor skills.44 Learning a new language also increases white matter in the brain which helps with brain connectivity and communication between different brain regions. Learning a new language at any age can promote problem-solving and creative thinking skills, improved vocabulary, and reading comprehension.
Traveling to new countries and experiencing a new environment and new culture can help enhance your creativity and communication.47 New experiences help your brain to adapt to new things to enhance neuroplasticity.48
The Effects Of Addiction On The Brain
When a drug is consumed, it interferes with how the brain functions. It sends confusing messages that the brain translates into needing more of a certain chemical or producing less of another chemical.
Over time, the brain will stop producing certain chemicals because it becomes dependent on receiving what it needs from the drugs.
Take Caffeine, for example. Every morning when you wake up, your brain automatically releases the chemicals that will energize and motivate you for the day ahead. One morning, however, you need a little pick-me-up you had a restless night and didnt get as much sleep as usual. After some consideration, you decide on a cup of coffee to give you a boost. The following morning, you have another cup of coffee and continue this habit over the course of weeks and months. Before you know it, youre craving coffee every morning just to be able to function.
Drug addiction works in a similar way theres a void without the drug in the bodys system. Should an individual stop feeding an addiction, withdrawal symptoms may arise. For instance, if you were to quit drinking coffee every morning, your brain wont be able to recognize what its lacking immediately. This in turn triggers withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, irritability, and restlessness.
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How Can An Amino Acid Infusion Help You Recover From Addiction
Although more clinical evidence is needed, the use of amino acid infusions is an effective treatment for addiction.15 Because substance use disorders cause an imbalance among neurotransmitters, an amino acid infusion can help to restore the balance of neurotransmitters, restoring the brain to its normal state at a faster rate than simply changing your daily diet. This can help to reduce cravings and help alleviate the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms.16
One method of accelerating recovery is by detoxing with intravenous amino acid therapy, which includes a combination of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals injected straight into the bloodstream. They travel to the brain where they begin to balance neurotransmitters quickly. Intravenous amino acid therapy is typically completed in ten days. After that, you would continue with substance use treatment such as counseling, nutrition, exercise, etc.
Now that you replenished your amino acids, it is time for therapy to reach lasting sobriety. But there is an option that enhances the effectiveness of traditional therapy ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.
Key Points To Understand The Brain And Addiction:
1. Some characteristics of addiction are similar to other chronic diseases.
Just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and changes its functioning, addiction changes the brain and impairs the way it works. Below is an image of the brain and the heart .
These images show how scientists can use imaging technology to measure functioning of the brain and heart. Greater activity is shown in reds and yellows, and reduced activity is shown in blues and purples. Both the healthy brain and the healthy heart show greater activity than the diseased brain and heart, because both addiction and heart disease cause changes in function. In drug addiction, the frontal cortex in particular shows less activity. This is the part of the brain associated with judgment and decision-making .
Addiction is similar to other chronic diseases in the following ways:
- It is preventable
- If untreated, it can last a lifetime
2. Substances of misuse trick the brains reward system.
Below is a picture of the brain and the nucleus accumbens, in addition to some other brain regions that are affected by addition.
The brains nucleus accumbens activated by alcohol
Addictive drugs can provide a shortcut to the brains reward system by flooding the nucleus accumbens with dopamine. Additionally, addictive drugs can release 2 to 10 times the amount of dopamine that natural rewards do, and they do it more quickly and reliably.
3. The brain can recover but it takes time!
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New Rapid Results Program Based On Neuroscience
After 30 years of studying overeating and overweight, the research published in the last 10 years has revolutionized how I think about both. The most important discovery is that the type of circuits that drive mindless eating, food binges and sugar addiction can change quickly, and changes can last even one year later.
New York University researchers showed that stress circuits can be erased, but not by thinking but by stress-activated emotional experience. This research is changing our approach to addictive and compulsive behaviors, such as overeating. Instead of forcing a behavior change, activate and rewire that emotional drive, as used in Emotional Brain Training .
New EBT Skinny Brain Challenge – EBT is a program aimed at raising the brain’s emotional set point, to rewire the whole range of stress-fueled drives. It’s a gentle process and like mindfulness becomes both a treatment and a practice. In the last three years, we have sharpened the tools to make them easy to learn and developed a new online program so that people could experience the power of the method more quickly.
For people who want to try out a neuroscience-based approach in just a couple of weeks and learn the rewiring skills, this challenge makes EBT very accessible. The first step in using EBT Skinny Brain is to dispel the 4 myths of dieting and replace them with neuroscience-based truths:
Chances are you’ll notice that food has lost its power over you, and you can lose weight without dieting.
Addiction As A Brain Disorder
For years, debate has raged between schools of thought that frame addiction as a choice versus addiction as a disease. Through an understanding of the brain as an adaptable organ, we can reach a more sophisticated model, describing addiction as a reorientation of the brain that creates new neural pathways and perpetuates addictive behavior. Rather than arbitrary choice, the addicts brain has remapped itself to make feeding addiction the most natural course of action.
When a person indulges in addictive behavior, their brain floods with dopamine. Dopamine release is not only highly rewarding, it also increases the ability to learn, and tells the brain, Remember how this happened so you can feel this way again. As the behavior is performed again and again, the level of dopamine release decreases, and new extremes must be reached for the same effect. Eventually, tolerance may build to such a point that the addictive behavior no longer provides pleasure at allmerely avoidance of withdrawal. But even in the face of diminished rewards, the neural pathways beg for the repetition of the behavior the brain is now built for addiction.
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