Where Does Addiction Occur in the Brain?

It’s difficult for those who have never experienced addiction to understand the realities of living with drug or alcohol use disorders. Misconceptions and stigmas surrounding substance abuse and addiction often leave those experiencing these mental health conditions isolated, ashamed, and unable to get the help they need to recover. Educating the public and challenging those stigmas helps to make addiction treatment in Coral Springs more accessible and fight the ongoing substance abuse epidemic affecting South Florida.  

The most common and harmful misconception regarding drug and alcohol use disorders is that addiction is a choice. Too often people believe that overcoming drug abuse or alcoholism is just a matter of will and those who continue to suffer do so of their own accord. This couldn’t be farther from the truth! Addiction is a disease of the mind that affects you both physically and mentally. In fact, substance use causes physical and biochemical changes within the brain that support addiction as a disease.  

The Prefrontal Cortex and Addiction 

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for conscious thought, problem solving, planning and decision making. Most importantly, the prefrontal cortex is the self-control center of the brain, responsible for helping us make mindful behavioral choices. In a brain affected by addiction, the reduced impulse control leads to compulsive substance use in response to the stress and reward signals stemming from the extended amygdala and basal ganglia.  

This can also lead to increased violent outbursts, risky sexual behaviors, and trouble with the legal system. The personality changes caused by these changes in the prefrontal cortex may create someone you don’t recognize. This is what causes people do and act in ways they otherwise would not.  

Substance Abuse and the Extended Amygdala  

The extended amygdala is responsible one’s stress response, including the anxiety, irritability, and unease which often accompany stressful situations. These emotions often occur hand in hand withdrawal symptoms, causing one to seek illicit substances as a means of relief. When combined with impaired function within the prefrontal cortex, this may create a dangerous cycle of substance abuse, deepening the hold of addiction on the mind. 

Continued substance use may also decrease the sensitivity of the extended amygdala. This is experienced as an increased tolerance to drugs or alcohol, causing one to need higher doses to maintain stasis and avoid withdrawal symptoms. This also increases the potential for serious health consequences, including overdose.  

How Addiction Affects the Basal Ganglia 

Known as the reward circuit of the brain, the basal ganglia is responsible for positive motivations, producing the pleasure responses to eating, socializing, and sex. This area of the brain also controls procedural learning and habit formation as well as cognition, emotions, and voluntary motor and eye movements. 

Because the basal ganglia is responsible for the biochemical responses that form habits, addiction heavily affects this area of the brain. Substance use floods the brain with dopamine causing the euphoric feelings associated with drug use. Continued drug and alcohol use may cause the brain to adapt to the presence of illicit substances in the body, reducing the brain’s sensitivity and making it more difficult to experience pleasure without using. 

Addressing Addiction with Edge Recovery 

At Edge Recovery, we understand the complexities of substance abuse as a disease that affects both the mind and body. Because of this, we utilize the top-quality treatment techniques for addiction treatment in Coral Springs. Our medically assisted treatment begins with medical detox for both alcohol and drug addiction care, allowing for a safe and comfortable transition to the next stage of care. We provide assistance finding inpatient rehab treatment, or you can continue the journey with our outpatient levels of care. 

Don’t lose another day to addiction. Start your recovery journey today– contact us now! 

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