Once addiction has taken root, sufferers often return to their vice again and again, no matter how destructive their dependence becomes – or how many loved ones they hurt in the process. Even men and women who have been to a drug treatment center for help may find themselves once again seduced by their substance of choice. One driving force behind relapse is the chemical alterations that take place in the brain after an extended period of substance abuse.
The Washington Post delved into this issue in a recent piece, noting that narcotics like heroin target an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. This region is responsible for the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to pleasure. Narcotics trigger a surge of dopamine, and this repeated influx has long-standing effects.
"When a person repeatedly subjects his nucleus accumbens to this narcotic-induced flood, the nerve cells that dopamine acts upon become exhausted from stimulation. The brain reacts by dampening its dopamine response — not just to heroin or cocaine, but probably to all forms of pleasurable behavior," the source states.
This moderation both drives addicted individuals to seek out larger doses and makes it exceedingly difficult to take joy in other aspects of their lives. As a result, recovering addicts can struggle to readjust to life after undergoing treatment. At Fairwinds Treatment Center, we understand both the psychological and chemical transformations that occur as a result of addiction. In addition, we recognize that underlying behavioral issues including anxiety and depression can contribute to and fuel this need.
Fairwinds Treatment Center founder Dr. El-Yousef has been a pioneer in dual diagnosis treatment, developing a program that combines extensive psychiatric care with a 12-step program and medication to facilitate recovery. Contact us today to learn more.