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Does Addiction Change how People Think?

by HealthCare Resource Centers Clinical Team

Does Addiction Change how People Think?

Advancements in addiction science have uncovered some remarkable new information regarding how substance use disorder (SUD) affects the brain, helping demystify an illness that has, only until recently, been seen as merely a bad habit or moral failing. The research presented that shows various brain scans between those with SUD and those without brings up an endless list of questions that helps research delve deeper into understanding how the brain works while affected by addiction. Does the brain of someone with an untreated SUD function differently than a brain that hasn’t been exposed to chronic substance misuse? Many questions are slowly being answered with specialized expert analysis and ongoing research to understand the disease of addiction as a whole.

Patterns of Thinking

The brain contains something called a “reward pathway” comprised of naturally occurring opioid receptors (mu, delta, and kappa), which are naturally fulfilled by simple acts such as satiating hunger and other essential human needs that promote human survival. Everyone has these urges, whether they’re addicted to substances or not, but priorities change for people who habitually misuse drugs or alcohol. The chemical dependency causes the brain to prioritize use over everything else because the feeling of unfulfilled happiness is driving the urge to supply dopamine levels that otherwise don’t occur in nature. The amount of opioid receptor stimulation required begins to reach levels that are nearly ten times the norm to feel euphoric effects, pushing further, heavier use.

Battling the Blues

When people who aren’t grappling with SUD experience a period of negative thoughts or simply feeling down, they can usually remedy these moods with a cathartic coping mechanism that doesn’t involve misusing substances. People with SUD have already begun the process of numbing their troubles with psychoactive substances to numb bad feelings while increasing their need for more and more of the drug to achieve a state of equilibrium. Thus begins the cycle of addiction, causing them to seek out more of the substance as it modifies the brain’s concept of happiness and satiety.

Seeking Validation

People who regularly misuse substances can sometimes develop an unrealistic perception of themselves that prohibits functional adult relationships. They’re more likely to engage in codependency, creating a toxic environment that further fuels their need for comfort with the use of substances, even reaching the point of dangerous, life-threatening circumstances and living situations. Others may rely on drugs or alcohol to make themselves feel more sociable and at ease in a social scenario, creating a dangerous pattern that quickly leads to substance use disorder.

Although addiction can alter how the human brain functions, the beauty of neuroplasticity also allows for rehabilitation and healing. Using comprehensive methods that involve both medication and psychotherapy with licensed substance use counselors, patients at HCRC are given all the tools they need to reach long-lasting recovery. There is hope for life beyond substance use disorder, and treatment can be affordable and convenient. To learn more, message or call a local HCRC office today.



Medically Reviewed By:

Health Care Resource Centers Clinical Team

Health Care Resource Centers Clinical Team

Health Care Resource Centers Clinical Team

The Clinical Team at Health Care Resource Centers is our team of physicians and medical directors within the organization. HCRC is a CARF accredited organization and has been providing addiction treatment services for over 32 years in the New England area.

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