Whether you're struggling to overcome addiction yourself or you're looking to help a loved one with a chemical dependency, understanding the brain's response to drug introduction is one of the first steps. After all, you cannot effectively overcome something if you don't fully understand its effects. Here's a look at what you should know about addiction as you prepare to combat it.
What Happens When You Take Drugs?
Most illegal drugs trigger an overwhelming amount of dopamine in your brain. Essentially, it's a shortcut to that pleasure response that's activated naturally by dopamine production. This increased dopamine level can gradually damage the neurotransmitters in your brain, affecting your cognitive function.
In addition, your brain will gradually become conditioned to expect and need that level of dopamine, which triggers the impulse to keep using. Gradually, you'll become more tolerant to the drug, so you'll see less dopamine response. This leads to increased use in an effort to maintain that feeling. These changes to your body's physiological responses can even lead to altered stress response and even emotional regulation problems.
What Else Affects Addiction?
While the dopamine addiction alone is strong, it isn't usually enough by itself to sustain a chemical dependency long-term. In fact, what often leads to the long-term addiction is actually a controlled learning experience. The actual addiction triggers a habitual reaction to the chemical in question, which means that you'll be at risk of relapse for many years after recovery.
The conditioning created by the brain cell alterations can form a lasting mental association between the use of the drug and other stimuli, including the association with specific people, traveling to the areas where you used to use, and many other things that you might have already associated with the drug. This conditioning is a significant part of why most recovery centers recommend that you avoid associating with anyone that you used with and move to a different part of town after your recovery. These things are key to keeping you away from those triggers.
In addition, a chemical dependency can affect the way that your body responds to emotion. It may cause you to feel emotions more intensely in situations or perhaps struggle with confusion and anxiety. You'll have to be aware of how it affects you so that you can be more attentive to your own responses.
Understanding these things will help you to lay key groundwork for overcoming addiction. You don't have to face the process by yourself. For more information, contact Olalla Recovery Centers or a similar organization.