Brain Changes with Addiction

I first learned about the hijacked brain in a nursing in-service at work in 2017. Nurses were just starting to be able to get help for their risk of becoming addicted. My family was experiencing our first ‘what the F’ moments of something being amiss with my 32-year-old son.

He was flying high (excuse the pun) on the success of his company he had spent years building. However, he was disappearing from job sites more often, leaving foreman’s without direction and supplies, and trying to maneuver his flailing marriage & family life.

He would admit later- on voice recordings- that he had so many irons in the fire, and had promised so many people too much, that he turned more and more to drugs just to function and help deal with his disappointment of his unfulfilled promises.

It was heartbreaking. I remember sittingย in that meeting thinking, “wow! I’m glad we are catching this early”.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It seems I should have known more about addiction by then, being a nurse and all; but truth is, I had the same stigmatized view of addicts as a lot of people still do.

I thought it was a certain class, maybe the poorer, uneducated kids from troubled homes. Boy was I about to get the lesson of my life.

As I wrote in my upcoming book, I HAD to find a way to look at addiction from a human perspective.

First, I needed to know the scope of this.

I was shocked to find out the possible numbers of people addicted.

Harvard states: Nearly 23 million Americansโ€”almost one in 10โ€”are addicted to alcohol or other drugs.

Once I dug deep into the actual physiology of Addiction, and the possible causes, it was time to look at chances at recovery.

Different studies quote very low numbers on recovery, some as low as 2%. But recovery is very hard to measure. It’s much easier toย  track how many are treated

Here on the government’s website, they show the many areas of treatment and how many facilities are licensed.

The sad thing about addiction- Other than every single thing about addiction is sad- is the fear of the brain not being able to heal.

I’ve heard recovered addicts say that for 2, 6, even 12 months out, they still have problems with memory or energy or even feeling joy. It’s not surprising, considering the massive changes that the high amounts of dopamine cause in the brain.

This is your brain on drugs-no frying pan

There’s so many mechanisms involved that it is a miracle anyone recovers, but millions do, thank heavens.

A person with substance use disorder is NOT a lost cause, as some people find it easier to believe (because then WE don’t have to do anything to combat it right?)

Thanks to recent studies, we now know that the brain’s ability to become hijacked can also heal completely. This Harvard help guide explains the brain changes:

“Addiction exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain that manifests in three distinct ways: craving for the object of addiction, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences.”

“Just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and diabetes impairs the pancreas, addiction hijacks the brain”.

Harvard describes it further In THIS article on the hijacked brain.

The surgeon general website has good info on the neural pathways that addiction causes. The repetition of using over and over make it harder to stop the longer someone uses.

The good news is that these pathways can be re-routed. Remapping, it’s called. Here’s a great visual From Alta Mira treatment center

There is a great organization called Matthews Hope foundation that does this work also. They were so kind in trying to help me set up my son for brain re-mapping to heal his diseased brain during one of his detoxes. Of course, you have to have a committed willing participant and the drugs call to him overtook any further recovery. I am still praying for this day to happen.

As of right now, my son is still breathing, so there is HOPE.๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ€๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ€๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ€๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ€

With over 22 million Americans in recovery, chances are good.,๐Ÿคž๐Ÿ€๐Ÿคž๐Ÿ€๐Ÿคž๐Ÿ€

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Samantha Waters

A unique perspective on the world from a small town girl turned big city nurse. Now a grandmother to 6 gregarious, resplendent boys and 5 endearing, magical girls, she strives the make the world a more understanding, pleasant place to experience this intense thing called life.

13 thoughts on “Brain Changes with Addiction”

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