Addiction has far-reaching effects on an individual’s physical and mental health. Also, it is known to affect the brain, which explains many of the problem behaviors associated with addiction. Furthermore, when someone engages in substance use, they experience multiple biological changes within the brain.
Drug and alcohol use leads to certain pleasurable and rewarding sensations. This continuous reward cycle reinforces the addictive behavior, making it difficult for individuals to break free from their addiction. The chemical dopamine is responsible for creating these enjoyable feelings. When people use these substances, dopamine is released into the brain’s reward system., inducing intense feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.
At the same time, this process also strengthens neural pathways that form between neurons. Thus, making it easier to recall memories associated with those activities. As a result, this further reinforces compulsive behaviors as it becomes easier to think about engaging in them again and again.
Additionally, long-term substance use can lead to changes in other chemicals like glutamate and GABA. These are necessary for normal cognitive functioning but become imbalanced due to excessive drug and alcohol use. As a result, individuals may have difficulty controlling their impulses, emotions, and decision-making.
The resulting lack of self-control makes it difficult for people in active addiction to recognize future consequences. This can lead them toward relapse even after periods of abstinence or recovery have been achieved. All these different mechanisms combined can make breaking free from addiction challenging but not impossible.