Addiction’s Effects on Brain Chemistry
Drugs and alcohol affect our brain chemistry through their impact on our brain’s reward center. As substance abuse sets off our dopamine receptors, we become addicted to the resultant feeling of euphoria. This worsens over time, as our brain eventually develops a tolerance to the dopamine.
Not only do we require our drug of choice in higher doses to achieve the same feeling, but we also find ourselves becoming more numb to other sources of pleasure such as good food or quality time with friends and family. We also suffer alterations to the neural pathways that govern learning, memory and sound judgment. Due to these changes in our brain chemistry, addicts and alcoholics require quality mental health treatment if they are to achieve recovery.
Treating Co-Occurring Disorders
Aside from the effects of drugs and alcohol, many addicts and alcoholics also suffer from co-occurring disorders. They may include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, borderline personality disorder and more. Many addicts actually begin using drugs in an attempt to self-medicate these issues. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over half of addicts and alcoholics with co-occurring disorders receive no mental health treatment.
While addicts may feel less anxious or depressed while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, prolonged substance abuse often does more to exacerbate these underlying disorders than to heal them. For this reason, mental health treatment for addicts and alcoholics generally treats these issues alongside the addiction itself through a process called dual diagnosis rehabilitation. Treating one while neglecting the other would only serve to increase the chances of relapse if the patient later feels the need to begin self-medicating again.
The Value of Behavioral Therapy
The preferred form of therapy for many addiction treatment centers is cognitive behavioral therapy. This form of mental health treatment looks not only at the patient’s behaviors, but also the reasons behind them. Therapy allows addicts and alcoholics to not only accept their condition, but also to look at why they began using in the first place.
When co-occurring disorders are involved, therapy and mental health treatment at a facility such as Aspire Treatment Center can help addicts and alcoholics to see the link between their addiction and their other mental health issues. In this way, treatment of both conditions is ensured by allowing the patient to see themselves objectively as a person rather than as a collection of neuroses. This allows them to see the humanity underlying their disease, and to determine healthy behaviors that will allow them to move on and create a better life for themselves while minimizing the risk of relapse.