How Does Addiction Affect The Brain?


Many people around America are still not entirely familiar with how addiction works and the effect it has on the brain. With the opioid epidemic and drug overdoses reaching a higher level than ever, though, it’s essential that we demystify addiction. When 46% of Americans or more are close to someone who’s addicted, we all need to understand what our loved ones and community members are going through.


How Addiction Affects the Brain

The specifics of addiction vary from one drug to the other, but the most addictive drugs have various similarities. Broadly speaking, they act as neurotransmitters, a type of compound that sends messages in the brain. Antidepressants, opioids, antipsychotics, and other mood-affecting drugs send signals within the brain that serve to modulate your internal state. Some affect the way that serotonin and dopamine interact with your neuroreceptors to help you feel happy. Similar neural relationships between drugs and your brain can dull pain, create a sense of euphoria, and much more.

However, the danger of addiction comes from the fact that these drugs interact with your reward system and have the potential to hijack it. With time, your brain adjusts itself to functioning alongside the drugs. While even responsible use of prescription drugs entails some level of drug tolerance, addicts experience an unhealthy level of tolerance. Once they reach this point, it won’t be possible to even feel normal without the drugs. Rather, an addict’s brain chemistry will cause them to exist in a perpetual state of misery and unease when they’re separated from the drug.

How Addiction Becomes a Cycle

From there, an addict’s brain chemistry serves to reinforce the cycle of drug use and deepen the addiction. If dysfunctionality and misery won’t drive them to use again, then their discomfort becomes much more severe due to withdrawals. When the brain compensates for drug addiction, it does not instantly stop when the drugs are gone. Rather, it continues to send all the opposite signals that it employed to counterbalance the drug.

If someone was taking opioids to feel a sense of euphoria and pain relief, they’ll be miserable and feel their pain magnified. A person going through antidepressant withdrawals may experience something similar to deep clinical depression. Some of the most dangerous withdrawals are those that result from depressants, such as alcohol; in the absence of the addictive substance, the brain and nervous system go wild and can cause seizures or even death.

Break Free From Addiction

Addiction isn’t something that a person can typically beat on their own. Drugs rewire your brain to prioritize the next hit above everything else, and unsupervised withdrawals can cause lasting harm or even death. If you want to learn more about addiction or need help with a drug problem, California Rehab Campus is here for you.