Monday, June 17, 2024

What Does Addiction Do To The Brain

A Lack Of Supporting Data

How Addiction Affects The Brain

Some of the most compelling evidence that seems to support the diseased-brain view of addiction comes from studies, mostly published in the 1980s and 1990s, of laboratory animals that were administered amphetamine. During these studies, the short- and long-term effects of amphetamines on neural structure and functioning as well as behavior were investigated. One of the most consistent findings is that a single large amphetamine dose administered to nontolerant animals produces extensive damage to dopamine neurons, meaning neurotoxicity. Areas of the brain that are rich in dopamine serve a wide range of important human functions, from mood regulation to movement to learning and memory. Indeed, a substantial database collected in laboratory animals indicates that large amphetamine doses produce disruptive effects in multiple behavioral domains, including learning and memory.

Because d-amphetamine and methamphetamine are used in several countries, including the United States, to treat a variety of disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder , narcolepsy, and obesity, it is not difficult to see how the possibility of amphetamine-induced neurotoxicity might cause alarm. This information also raises concerns about the potential harmful consequences of methamphetamine addiction on the human brain and behavior.

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What Is Samhsa’s National Helpline

SAMHSAs National Helpline, , or TTY: is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

Also visit the online treatment locator.

How Addiction Affects Your Family

Addiction isnt just a disease that affects one person. It also takes a toll on the entire family. Since addiction leads to irresistible cravings and urges to drink or use to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms, people who are addicted make substances their priority. They no longer have a choice in the matter.

Even though it may not seem like something you would normally do, if you developed an addiction you would likely find yourself lying to your family members about whether you are using and how much you are using. You may take money that is earmarked for paying bills and use it to support your addiction.

These types of actions erode the trust built up between you and your family members, leading to increased conflict. Over time, relationships between you and your family will suffer due to multiple occurrences of lies, half-truths, and broken promises. Once trust has been broken, its very difficult to rebuild it.

Someone who is living with an addiction can start to find their way back by seeking professional help at a drug and alcohol treatment center. Long-term recovery is possible with individualized addiction treatment.

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Getting Help For Alcoholism

As you can probably tell by now, what alcohol addiction does to the brain is complicated, but the good news is that much of the damage caused by addiction can be reversed during recovery. In the same way that the brain is moulded around alcohol use, it can also be moulded around abstinence and recovery.

Nonetheless, you should be aware that these changes will not occur overnight after all, they did not occur overnight when you developed your addiction. But if you are prepared to commit to a programme of recovery and are willing to work hard, the same process that led to your addiction can occur again this time complementing your recovery.

For most, overcoming alcohol addiction begins with a detox programme as the first step on the road to recovery is getting clean. After that, you will need to learn how to stay that way. During detox, you will quit alcohol, but when you do, you are likely to experience a number of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms could be mild, moderate, or severe there is no way to tell which symptoms you will experience or how severe these will be before they actually occur.

In a dedicated detox facility though, your symptoms can be effectively managed by fully trained, experienced staff who will know how to make you more comfortable and who will ensure your safety at all times.

What Reward Does To Your Brain


When we experience a reward or pleasure, the ventral tegmental area sends dopamine into the basal gangliaa structure that is responsible for numerous things such as executive functions, behaviors, and emotions. And it is this release that tells us that whatever we just experienced was wonderful and to please do it again. It is this chain of events that helps us change behavior, provide motivation, and affect our mood. All in all, it makes us feel good. And this is where substance use steps in.

All addictive substances work on the same common reward pathway, says Anna Lembke, M.D., medical director of addiction medicine at School of Medicine at Stanford University. Different substances will release different amounts of dopamine, but they all release dopamine in a reward pathway and thats what relates to their addictive potential.

How the brain responds depends upon the substance to which one is addicted, says David A. Fiellin, M.D., director of the program in addiction medicine at Yale School of Medicine. It is reasonable to say that the reward system of the brain gets hijacked by substances that cause addiction. Some of the brain changes are in the cells of the brain. The proteins that the cells make can also change over time with repeated exposure to a substance. The receptors on the cells can change also. Thats a lot of brain chemistry shifting around.

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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.

History Society And Culture

Amphetamine, discovered before methamphetamine, was first synthesized in 1887 in Germany by Romanian chemist Lazr Edeleanu who named it phenylisopropylamine. Shortly after, methamphetamine was synthesized from ephedrine in 1893 by Japanese chemistNagai Nagayoshi. Three decades later, in 1919, methamphetamine hydrochloride was synthesized by pharmacologist Akira Ogata via reduction of ephedrine using red phosphorus and iodine.

At the end of the war, it was used as part of a new drug: D-IX.

Obetrol, patented by Obetrol Pharmaceuticals in the 1950s and indicated for treatment of obesity, was one of the first brands of pharmaceutical methamphetamine products. Due to the psychological and stimulant effects of methamphetamine, Obetrol became a popular diet pill in America in the 1950s and 1960s. Eventually, as the addictive properties of the drug became known, governments began to strictly regulate the production and distribution of methamphetamine. For example, during the early 1970s in the United States, methamphetamine became a schedule II controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Currently, methamphetamine is sold under the trade name Desoxyn, trademarked by the Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck. As of January 2013, the Desoxyn trademark had been sold to Italian pharmaceutical company Recordati.

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Brain Connections Are Rewired

As the brain continues to adapt to the presence of the drug, regions outside of the reward pathway are also affected. Over time, brain regions responsible for judgment, decision-making, learning, and memory begin to physically change, making certain behaviors hard-wired. In some brain regions, connections between neurons are pruned back. In others, neurons form more connections.

Once these changes take place, drug-seeking behavior becomes driven by habit, almost reflex. The drug user becomes a drug addict.

Drug abuse causes fundamental, long-lasting changes in the brain. –Dr. Glen Hanson

After cocaine use, connections between neurons in the nucleus accumbens, part of the reward pathway, increase in number, size, and strength.

Addiction And The Dopamine Transporter

How Does Addiction Affect the Brain?

Although the details may have been disputed, the central role of dopamine in addiction nevertheless seemed firmly established. And then last May came research that appeared at first glance to contradict the notion that dopamine underlies addiction. The leading hypothesis for how cocaine works in the brain appears to be wrong, said The New York Times. The headline in Nature Neuroscience asked: Hard knocks for the dopamine hypothesis?

Caron points out that pharmacologists have known for a number of years that many psychostimulants are capable of blocking not only the ability of the dopamine transporter to re-uptake dopamine and therefore increase extracellular dopamine concentration, but also the ability of the norepinephrine transporter to re-uptake norepinephrine and the ability of the serotonin transporter to re-uptake serotonin. Previously, the effects on other neurotransmitter systems were not thought to be important because many of the reward mechanisms can be blocked by blocking the dopamine system.

What the study suggests, Caron says, is that addiction does not depend solely on the ability of cocaine to raise the concentration of dopamine. It’s probably much more that cocaine interacts with many other systems, he says, noting the possibility that norepinephrine might also be involved.

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Opioid Overdose And Brain Injury

Individuals who abuse opioids are also particularly at risk of overdose, especially with the proliferation of super-potent synthetic opioids such as fentanyl on the street. An overdose from opioids involves severe respiratory depression that, if not treated quickly, may result in hypoxia-related injuries. Hypoxia refers to insufficient oxygen in the tissues.12

A lack of sufficient oxygen for long enough may lead to brain injury. Hypoxia-related brain injury can result in:13

  • Confusion/disorientation.
  • Memory problems, such as short-term memory loss.
  • Behavior changes.
  • Problems walking.

What Part Of The Brain Is Responsible For Addiction

There are several parts of the brain involved in addiction. They are:

the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of cells below the cortex in the basal forebrain that produces the urge to pursue a goal. Sometimes called the pleasure center of the brain, it is a key player in the reward circuitry of the brain and releases dopamine in response to positive experiences and the anticipation of such experiences.

dopamine neurons, which are concentrated in the nucleus accumbent and form pathways of connection to other parts of the brain when activated by positive experiences.

the prefrontal cortex, which is the seat of such executive functions as judgment, decision-making, impulse control it gradually weakens in response to overactivation of the reward circuits by drugs of abuse.

the amygdala, which registers emotional significance of perceptions, is highly responsive to drug-related cues and sets in motion the rise and fall of craving.

the hippocampus, seat of memory under the influence of dopamine, the memory of an expected reward results in overactivation of the reward and motivation circuits and decreased activity in the cognitive control centers of the prefrontal cortex.

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Whos Most Likely To Become Addicted

Each persons body and brain are different. People also react differently to drugs. Some love the feeling the first time they try it and want more. Others hate it and never try again.

Not everyone who uses drugs becomes addicted. But it can happen to anyone and at any age. Some things may raise your chances of addiction, including:

  • Family history. Your genes are responsible for about half of your odds. If your parents or siblings have problems with alcohol or drugs, youre more likely as well. Women and men are equally likely to become addicted.
  • Early drug use. Childrens brains are still growing, and drug use can change that. So taking drugs at an early age may make you more likely to get addicted when you get older.
  • Mental disorders. If youre depressed, have trouble paying attention, or worry constantly, you have a higher chance of addiction. You may turn to drugs as a way to try to feel better. A history of trauma in your life also makes you more likely to have addiction.
  • Troubled relationships. If you grew up with family troubles and arent close to your parents or siblings, it may raise your chances of addiction.


You may have one or more of these warning signs:

How Heroin Causes Tolerance

What alcohol does to your brain

After repeated heroin use, opioid receptors in the brain adapt by becoming less responsive. This is called tolerance. People with a high tolerance to heroin feel less pleasure when using the drug because their opioid receptors have become less sensitive to its effects. Some people with a high tolerance end up taking higher doses of heroin to feel pleasure. As the person continues to use heroin, opioid receptors continuously adapt to the increasing doses. Thus, the persons tolerance continues to increase.

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Cocaine And Brain Aging

As a person grows older, their brain will naturally change and begin to lose gray matter. In a healthy brain, this is a decades-long process, and it does not appear until a person has reached older adulthood. Memory problems, changes in cognitive ability, and even dementia are linked to reduction of gray matter.

A recent study through the University of Cambridge examined the aging of the brain in people who abused cocaine and those who had no previous history of substance abuse. The group found that the average brain normally loses 1.69 milliliters of gray matter per year however, people who had abused cocaine in the past, or who were currently cocaine-dependent, doubled the rate of gray matter loss, for an average of 3.08 milliliters per year.

Another study, conducted by Johns Hopkins University, found that cocaine may cause brain cells to cannibalize themselves. The study describes cocaine triggering autophagy in neurons in mice, or the process of the cells eating themselves from the inside out. The cells threw out useful resources during metabolism, leading to a stress reaction of cannibalizing other internal cell structures. Mice whose mothers had been fed cocaine during pregnancy, but who were not cocaine-dependent themselves, also showed this phenomenon.

More about the Effects on the Brain or Body

Retraining The Brain After Addiction

Even if people understand the changes and cycle of addiction and how it changes the brain, they cannot stop on their own. The brain is dependent on drugs or alcohol, so a person needs to commit to recovery to change his or her lifestyle. When in treatment, a persons brain needs to be re-trained to function normally, without toxic substances. It will take time for the brain to re-adjust to a sober, healthy lifestyle.

At Corner Canyon Health Centers, we focus on the Gut-Brain connection to restore adequate levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Its our top priority to heal the brain after someone has suffered from addiction.

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Do I Need Health Insurance To Receive This Service

The referral service is free of charge. If you have no insurance or are underinsured, we will refer you to your state office, which is responsible for state-funded treatment programs. In addition, we can often refer you to facilities that charge on a sliding fee scale or accept Medicare or Medicaid. If you have health insurance, you are encouraged to contact your insurer for a list of participating health care providers and facilities.

Restoring The Prefrontal Cortex

How Drug Addiction Works

In a recent National Geographic article, writer Fran Smith profiled a number of doctors who are experimenting with new and alternative methods of treatingan addicted brain. One group profiled in the article is currently working on an addiction treatment method that stimulates the prefrontal cortex using a method called optogenetics.

In the ontogenetic method, the prefrontal cortex is manipulated via fiber optic light. The light stimulates the executive function of the brain, essentially prompting it to become more dominant than the drug-craving midbrain. An addict with a stable prefrontal cortex would, ideally, be able to think rationally and have the mental fortitude to fight off their cravings.

Although the treatment has worked on both rodents and humans , it has not yet been tested on a large scale.

It will take large, placebo-controlled trials to prove that the treatment works and the benefits last, Smith explains in the article, however noting that, The team plans to conduct further studiestesting brain stimulation to help people stop smoking, drinking, gambling, binge-eating and misusing opioids.

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How Do Substances Affect The Brain

Drugs and alcohol affect three primary areas of the brain: the brain stem, the limbic system, and the cerebral cortex. When substances enter the brain, they interfere with its normal processing and can eventually lead to dramatic changes in the neurons and brain circuits changes that can still be present even after an individual has stopped taking drugs.

What parts of the brain do drugs affect?

  • Drugs affect three primary areas of the brain: the brain stem, the limbic system, and the cerebral cortex.

How do drugs affect the brain?

  • When drugs enter the brain, they interfere with its normal processing and can eventually lead to changes in how well it works.
  • There are at least two ways the drugs work in the brain:
  • They imitate the brains natural chemical messengers
  • They over-stimulate the brains reward circuit
  • Normally, the reward circuit responds to feelings of pleasure by releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine. Drugs take control of this system, causing large amounts of dopamine to flood the system. This flood of dopamine is what causes the high or intense excitement and happiness linked with drug use.

How Drugs Cause A High

Most drugs also lead to an increase of dopamine in the brain. But its different than with ice cream. The brain releases a controlled amount of dopamine when you experience natural pleasures. Drugs cause an unnatural dopamine surge. This causes the euphoric high that keeps drug users coming back for more.

But theres more to what drugs do to the addicted brain than a simple dopamine surge. In fact, drugs alter how the entire pleasure center of the brain works. Once the brain experiences the dopamine surge, the hippocampus creates memories of the pleasure, and the amygdala creates a conditioned response to stimuli.

Different drugs work in the brain in different ways. For example, heroin and LSD mimic the effects of a natural neurotransmitter like dopamine. PCP blocks the brains receptors to stop messages from getting through. Cocaine interferes with the neurons that bring neurotransmitters back to the neurons they came from. And methamphetamines cause the brain to release more neurotransmitters.

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