Addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD), is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), as a chronic, relapsing neurological disorder. Addiction is defined as a disease “that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication.” Drugs are explained as chemicals or substances that change the way one’s body works by affecting a person’s mental or physical state. Different drugs can have neurotoxic and destructive effects on brain cells. The brain is known as the most complex organ in the human body. Repeated and prolonged substance use that occurs with addiction can reshape the brain’s structure and how it functions. Various areas of the brain are directly impacted by addiction, some of which include:
- The brainstem is located at the base of one’s skull. It controls many subconscious and basic functions needed to survive (e.g., one’s heart rate, one’s sleep, one’s swallowing, and one’s breathing). It also is the connection between the brain and the rest of one’s body, as it links one’s brain to one’s spinal cord. Addiction can interfere with the brainstems ability to function properly. The presence of drugs and/ or alcohol can cause the brainstem to misrepresent what is going on in one’s body and send inaccurate information to the brain.
- Habitual abuse of drugs can cause the amygdala, area of the brain that perceives feelings of stress, anxiety, and irritability, to become increasingly sensitive.
- The basal ganglia, sometimes referred to as the brain’s reward circuit, is an area in one’s brain that plays a role in cultivating motivation, the formation of routines and habits as well as appreciating the pleasurable effects of life. Drugs and/ or alcohol can cause this area to become over-active which is often experienced as a feeling of euphoria.
- The cerebral cortex, which is the outermost layer of the brain that is most closely associated with our highest mental capabilities, is the area of the brain where one’s thought processing and consciousness are located. The cerebral cortex is the largest area of the brain and is divided into two sections. One of the sections controls one’s reasoning abilities (e.g., one’s ability problem solve, think, plan, etc.). The other area of the cerebral cortex controls the ability to process outside stimuli via one’s senses (i.e., sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing). The effects of certain drugs can modify one’s ability to accurately assess a situation. If an individual is addicted to drugs the cerebral cortex is affected because he or she is providing false information from outside stimuli to one’s brain.
There are several contributing factors that can play a role in how addiction may affect one’s brain. The personal health history of the individual, the type of substance or substances abused, the length of time he or she abused the substance, the potency of the substance abused, and the frequency he or she abused the substance will all inform the effects addiction may have on his or her brain.
For Information and Support
If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.
Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.