There’s a reason why many people have to hit rock bottom before they seek treatment for addiction. It’s not a situation in which a person can simply say, okay, I’m going to stop. Addiction is not merely a problem of negative thinking or harmful behavior. It includes those things, but on a deeper level, addition is an illness of the brain that can cause one to experience negative thinking and continue to participate in harmful behavior, despite the increasingly destructive consequences.
Addiction is an illness of the brain. It often starts out very innocently. Usually someone turns to drugs and alcohol because they need a way to cope with stress or intense emotions. Other times, people might use drugs or drink as a means to cope with symptoms of a mental illness. Whatever the case, if someone continues to rely upon drugs or drinking as a way to feel better, that dependence can slowly get worse, affecting the functioning of the brain.
The brain is one large network of communication. There are billions of neurons and nerve cells that are forever taking in information and passing it along to other neurons. In order for one neuron to communicate with another, it creates a chemical, called neurotransmitters. As that neurotransmitter attaches to the part of the cell in the brain called the receptor, they operate like a key and lock. In this way, the brain makes sure that each receptor will receive the right kind of neurotransmitter. Once the neurotransmitters do their job, they are pulled back into their original neuron from which they came. When it returns, this process shuts off the messaging signal taking place between neurons.
However, when drugs are introduced into the brain, they affect the ability for neurons to communicate with one another. This is particularly dangerous because of the signaling and communication that is naturally happening in the brain. If the brain can continue to be flexible by forming new neural connections and releasing old ones, this can support healthy brain function and mental health. These neural connections and adaptability are important in a person’s learning, behavior, and mood regulation.
However, the continued use of a substance affects the health of the brain. Those with an addiction can actually make permanent changes to the brain, affecting their thoughts, feelings, and behavior and making them more and more negative and harmful.
This is why a person cannot think their way out of an addiction. The brain is being harmed in such as way that it’s affecting one’s perception of their life. Over time, they begin to believe that they need the substance in order to survive and begin to neglect all other areas of their life. This sort of perception is hard to break without the right professional support. Or it takes a person reaching the bottom of their life, having lost everything, before they realize that something has got to change.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, contact a mental health professional today.
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