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What Does Neuroplasticity Mean for Addiction Treatment? 

graphic of brain to represent neuroplasticity

It was once believed that brain changes and damage were irreversible, and that the adult brain was generally unmalleable.  New research has discovered that the brain is able to create new pathways and connections well into adulthood, as well as respond to new behaviors by reprioritizing specific pathways.  The brain’s ability to grow and rebuild is now referred to as neuroplasticity. This process explains how people with traumatic brain injuries can recover, and may also help inform treatment for those that have developed addictions.   Addiction happens when the brain begins to associate reward with a habitual behavior, especially when that behavior involves using substances that stimulate the production of pleasure-enhancing neurotransmitters.  This process can create strong neural pathways that make deviating from addiction without treatment and support extremely difficult. When we view the brain as capable of constantly absorbing new information and forming new connections, however, we can better understand how addiction recovery is possible.  Addiction was once thought of as a moral failing or character flaw, and therefore treatment involved depriving the user of addictive substances without giving them life-enhancing tools to satisfy their brain’s desire for reward. Now that we better understand this process, holistic treatment centers can help addicted individuals build new neural pathways by focusing on mental health and quality of life. While building a life of rewarding experiences outside of substance abuse, it is important that those in recovery keep in mind the existence of their old neural pathways.  While addiction recovery programs can help create healthy activity in the brain, the connections forged by addictive behavior can easily be reactivated and lead to relapse.  Quality addiction recovery programs should provide clients with a long-term plan for sobriety, as well as strategies for maintaining an active and fulfilling life.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, now is the time to reach out for help.  At Arbor Behavioral Healthcare, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  The Arbor uses an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues. No treatment is one-size-fits-all, and at The Arbor you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.  We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit, so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 844-413-2690.