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The Chemistry of Addiction in Washington State

Addiction Treatment Programs in Washington StateMany believe that addiction is a result of lacking willpower. However, with scientific studies and mass amounts of research, it is proven that addiction is much more than simply choosing to use a drug. It’s about how substances affect the brain’s function and structure over time. And, how addiction is a chronic disease that provides no cure. But, with knowledge on how addiction works and affects the brain, individuals can better understand what they need to do to achieve lasting and effective recovery.

The Brain’s Reward System

To understand how addiction affects the brain, one must first understand the brain’s natural reward system. Basically, the brain releases “feel-good chemicals” called serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals are what result in feelings of euphoria and happiness during everyday life. The intent of these chemicals is to encourage humankind to engage in survival behaviors. For example, when a person eats, is intimate with their partner, or exercises, their brains will release surges of dopamine and serotonin. This results in feelings of happiness as a reward for the survival behavior. Thus, encouraging humankind to continue with these behaviors.

However, when drugs and alcohol are used, the same neurotransmitters are stimulated to release these “feel-good chemicals”. As a result, the body doesn’t have enough of these chemicals to release when a person conducts a behavior that would usually provoke a chemical response. Furthermore, this causes individuals who use drugs or alcohol to feel low or down when they don’t use. So, to feel better again and evoke the surge of these natural chemicals, they use their drug of choice again. And, the cycle of addiction ensues.

Developing Tolerance to Addictive Substances

Because addictive drugs cause the brain to release mass amounts of dopamine, after a while, the dopamine doesn’t have the same effect on the brain. So, individuals won’t experience the effects they’re seeking after using for a while. This is known as tolerance. And, as a result of this tolerance, individuals may increase the dose of their drug of choice. Even after stopping the use of drugs or alcohol, those who develop a tolerance to drugs or alcohol experience cravings due to this developed tolerance.

Reversing the Effects of Addiction on the Brain

Fortunately, with time, the brain can restore proper function and even repair its own structure. But, it takes a commitment to sobriety and a lifestyle of recovery. If you’re ready to begin a new life free from drug tolerance and addiction, contact us today.