Substance use disorder (SUD) can cause chemical imbalances in the brain that affect mood, behavior, and thought patterns. In addition, brain chemistry can contribute to the development of SUD. According to the US Surgeon General (SG), addiction is “associated with changes in the function of brain circuits involved in pleasure (the reward system), learning, stress, decision making, and self-control.” Newport Beach Recovery Center uses evidence-based treatments to treat SUD and co-occurring mental health disorders.

Addiction Is a Brain Disease

The media, social stigmas, and misinformed politicians all help perpetuate the misconception that SUD is something only experienced by people with low moral character. Addiction is a brain disease, not a personal choice. SUD has zero indication of someone’s personality. Changes in the brain and body cause behavioral patterns to develop over time though.

People often struggle to combat the compulsions caused by the effects of substance abuse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to.” Rehabilitation programs like those provided at Newport Beach Recovery Center provide necessary support and personalized treatment to ensure clients get the help they need to reverse chemical changes in the brain. Our brains have plasticity and can usually heal over time.

How Does Substance Abuse Change Brain Chemistry?

Your brain function is controlled by a delicate balance of absorbed or produced chemicals that affect how your demeanor. Substance abuse severely damages your brain’s natural ability to balance these chemicals. According to NIDA, “Long-term use also causes changes in other brain chemical systems and circuits . . . affecting functions that include:

  • learning
  • judgment
  • decision-making
  • stress
  • memory
  • behavior”

Too much or too little of any chemical can cause significant changes to your overall health. The regions of the brain most commonly affected by SUD include:

  • Basal ganglia
  • Extended amygdala
  • Prefrontal cortex

Substance abuse can alter your brain’s ability to absorb, transmit, or produce essential chemicals like dopamine. As stated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “Many studies have shown that neurons that release dopamine are activated, either directly or indirectly, by all addictive substances, but particularly by stimulants such as cocaine, amphetamines, and nicotine.” In most cases, these changes are temporary, and after a period of sobriety, the brain repairs itself. However, it may take more time for some individuals, and long-term abuse of certain substances may lead to permanent changes.

How Does Brain Chemistry Affect Physical and Mental Health?

Brain chemistry directly affects your health. The way your brain absorbs and transmits certain chemicals controls how you perceive the world around you. Too little or too much of neurotransmitters can cause the following:

  • Mood swings
  • Loss or increase in appetite
  • Increased or decreased stress tolerance
  • Lack of energy
  • Reduced ability to empathize with others
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Hyperactivity
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Risk-taking behaviors like continued substance abuse

Neurotransmitters contribute to brain function, emotions, and behaviors. Some of the neurotransmitters affected most by substance abuse include:

  • Dopamine
  • Serotonin
  • Endorphins
  • Glutamate
  • Norepinephrine

Often, psychiatric medications are necessary to return the brain to baseline. Additionally, the reward system must be retrained to respond properly to feel-good neurotransmitters.

What Are the Most Effective Treatments?

Rehabilitation for SUD often incorporates multiple methodologies. According to the HHS, “[A] spectrum of effective strategies and services are available to identify, treat, and manage substance use problems and substance use disorders.” The personalized treatment plans at Newport Beach Recovery Center incorporate a combination of evidence-based methods, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Prescription medications, when appropriate
  • Psychotherapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)

Some social activities can improve your general well-being and contribute to more balanced brain chemistry. Peer support also provides emotional relief. Healthy social interactions can improve coping skills and activate certain areas of the brain that increase positive mental health. Rehab programs can facilitate these social interactions by providing holistic therapies and group outings.

How Do Changes in Brain Chemistry Affect Long-Term Recovery?

Many behaviors and activities can lead to long-term side effects from SUD. Individuals with the following issues may experience more severe or prolonged symptoms:

  • Malnutrition or physical health issues caused by poor diet
  • Some prescription medications can interfere with brain chemistry
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia

The longer a person abuses substances, the more time it will take for their mind and body to return to a balanced state. Underlying issues like co-occurring disorders can complicate recovery and require ongoing therapy or medication. Newport Beach Recovery Center has every client participate in an admissions assessment to help our care team identify issues that might complicate the recovery process.

You Can Recover From SUD

We can successfully help clients recover from SUD. With our help, you can overcome issues related to changes in brain chemistry. Our care team collaborates with each client to ensure the best possible outcome. In addition, we offer aftercare planning and other services to connect you with essential complimentary treatments that will help you continue healing from the effects of SUD. You can learn to manage your condition. With the help of professional treatment services, you can go on to live a happy, healthy, and functional life.

Brain chemistry affects the development of substance use disorder. Substance use disorder is a brain disease and not a moral failing or indication that you do not want to get better. The relationship between chemical imbalances in the brain and maladaptive behaviors is extremely complex. Significant changes in the brain that affect certain chemicals like dopamine can cause addictive behaviors. Our brain is capable of healing our neurotransmitter levels. Newport Beach Recovery Center uses evidence-based methods to treat SUD and co-occurring disorders. In many cases, cognitive-behavioral therapy is combined with medication to help people manage symptoms. Additionally, we offer groups and holistic therapies to encourage social healing. To learn more about our treatments, call us at (888) 850-0363.