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Changes In The Brain During An Addiction

man researches changes in the brain during addiction

Many people, usually those that are uninformed, say that addiction is a choice. Here at Arbor Behavioral Health, we know this to not be true. Addiction is a disease that needs treatment just as much as any other disease. Like all diseases, there are changes that occur in the brain and body of those impacted. Addiction may be a disease, but recovery is a choice. Arbor Behavioral Healthcare wants to help you make the choice of recovery today.   

Disease, Not Choice

If you are saying that addiction is a choice, you are ignoring the many physical changes that the addiction produces in the brain. No one wants to become addicted, but over time you may become dependent and left wanting more and more. There is also a genetic component to addiction, like many other diseases. “Most diseases, including addiction, are complex, and variations in many different genes contribute to a person’s overall level of risk or protection” ( Although genetics plays a role, so does the behavior. Behavior can be broken down into three different areas: pleasure, learning, and tolerance.  

The Pleasure Principle

The pleasure principle is based on the brain releasing dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps to control emotional responses and learning. The brain, specifically the hippocampus which is responsible memory, remembers the great feeling you get from that release of powerful dopamine. The brain then becomes conditioned to expect a big release of dopamine and feel the reward of pleasure.  

Learning Processes

Dopamine also plays a role in our learning. The brain learns that the release of dopamine brings pleasure, as previously stated. It is then motivated to seek out what makes a large amount of dopamine release, in this case, a substance. This circuit is then strengthened and overloaded.   Tolerance and Compulsion Soon, your brain begins to get used to the substance you are abusing. Your brain produces less dopamine with the same amount of the substance you are taking in. This is your brain building up a tolerance. Once you have tolerated the substance, your brain wants more so that it feels those effects again. It then sends out signals of compulsion cravings, which causes you to take in more of the substance to feel the reward.  

Arbor Behavioral Healthcare is here to help you break that cycle. We can help get you started on a program that works for you. Call us today at 844-413-2690. We can’t wait to help you choose recovery today!