Drug use can affect every part of your life. Addiction may impair the health of your body, interfere with your relationships, and change the way you perceive the outside world. One of the most damaging side effects of drug abuse is damage to your brain. If you’ve misused prescription drugs, heroin, cocaine, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, or other types of drugs, your brain may have sustained a considerable amount of harm. The good news is that your brain can heal itself when you stop using drugs; but you must create the right conditions to do so. When you do, the brain can re-establish its chemical balance. Once balanced, your brain can begin to regain control of your impulses, emotions, memory, thinking patterns, and mental health.
How Do Drugs Affect Your Brain?
When you have a substance use disorder, your brain might not work as well as it should. Drugs can interfere with your brain’s normal chemistry. While you might not feel any different or notice any significant changes at first, your behavior may gradually become erratic as your brain adjusts to drug use. If your brain has been or is currently affected by drug use, you might notice changes in behavior that can include:
- Impulse control. When you’re struggling with addiction, your brain tends to prompt strong impulse reactions. When this takes place, you might engage in risky behaviors.
- Emotional control. Many types of drugs can make it hard for you to experience emotions. When the high is over, your emotions might become too much to bear, causing you to lash out emotionally or turn back to drug use.
- Memory. Some drugs can affect your brain’s hippocampus, which allows you to learn and memorize information. When you’re struggling with substance abuse challenges, you may have trouble remembering bills, important dates, meetings, work obligations, or social activities.
- Reward system. Drugs trick and rewire the brain’s pleasure system, making it more likely that you will take drugs again and again.
- Flexible thinking. Drugs might affect the way your brain processes information. If you’re unable to take in new information, you’ll find it hard to learn, adapt, or change your behavior. You may also find it really difficult to overcome bad or harmful habits.
- Mental health. Depressant drugs can slow your brain’s activity. Stimulants tend to interfere with your sleep patterns. Opioids might depress your central nervous system. Hallucinogens can increase your anxiety levels and alter your sensory perception. All of these effects have the potential to raise your risk of developing underlying mental health disorders.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to help repair your brain.
What Can You Do To Help Repair Your Brain?
- When you remove drugs from your body, you give your brain a fresh start to restore its balance. At first, your brain and body will be thrown out of alignment by the sudden change. At that point, you might experience some symptoms of withdrawal. But as you continue and complete the detoxification process, you stimulate a re-adjustment of your brain’s natural chemical balance. You might think of detox as a way to jumpstart your brain just as you would jumpstart a car. Drugs have caused your brain to temporarily malfunction. Once your body and brain are free of drugs, however, you are able to jumpstart your brain and prepare it for treatment, where you will learn to ignore drug cravings and adjust to functioning without drugs in your life.
#2. Participate in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- This specific type of behavioral therapy teaches you to identify and change destructive thought patterns that have a negative effect on your behavior. But studies show that CBT can also help change dysfunctional behavior in your central nervous system, too. When you engage in cognitive therapy, you encourage neural network growth in your brain. Those neural networks determine how you think, feel, and see the world. Neural networks also shape what you believe is possible. The growth of these networks can, in turn, help support positive change in your behavior. CBT also increases brain activity in the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. Your amygdala controls how you process fear and threats. The prefrontal cortex deals with reasoning and rational thinking. When you participate in CBT as a part of addiction treatment, you’re working to strengthen your control over your emotion and impulses, as well as make your thinking more flexible. As a result, you may notice fewer outbursts, an increased ability to think logically, and a better perspective on the world and your ability to thrive in it.
#3. Take Up Mindfulness & Meditation
- Mindfulness and meditation strengthen connections in your brain. A study published in the journal Neuroimage shows that continually focusing and refocusing your mind increases the connection between your auditory cortex and the areas in your brain that deal with self-referential processes. These processes in your brain determine how you relate information from the outside world to yourself. In other words, meditation encourages you to believe the positive things you hear about yourself. For example, when you say, “I can recover” or “I will live a sober lifestyle” and focus your mind on those kinds of thoughts, your brain helps you see yourself in long-term recovery and living that sober lifestyle.
Another study found that mindfulness and mediation can lessen the risk of relapse. Other benefits of Mindfulness can include:
- Increasing the amount of grey matter in your brain, which helps your sensory perception, including eyesight and hearing. Increased grey matter also helps you make healthier decisions and exhibit self-control.
- Increasing the cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which increases your memory and ability to learn new habits and behaviors.
- Decreasing brain cell volume in the amygdala, which can lessen fear, anxiety, and stress.
How Is The Brain Able to Repair Itself After Drug Use?
The brain is fragile but durable. Even after being damaged by drugs, your brain is able to repair itself in a number of ways, which can include:
- Neuroplasticity. In simple terms, neuroplasticity is the process that allows your brain to continue to function even when cell damage disrupts neural pathways. You can think of plasticity as the miraculous process that allows you to learn to write with your left hand after your right hand gets injured.
- Brain cell regeneration. Brain cells can recreate themselves. Over time, any cells that you damage due to drug use will eventually regenerate.
- Shared Brain Functionality. Brain functionality happens in different areas of the brain. In other words, even if drugs damage the original center of memory, cognitive function, and sensory perception, you can use other brain areas to remember, think logically, and sharpen your senses. In order to make this work, though, you’ll have to keep your brain and body drug-free.
Drug Addiction Recovery and Strengthening Your Brain
It’s no secret that drugs have the potential to damage your brain. They can disrupt your brain’s delicate balance and destroy neural connections. But hope isn’t lost. The brain is really good at rewiring itself and modifying its connections. In addition to that, you can use other parts of your brain to maintain key functionality while you recover from addiction.
Here at Meta Addiction Treatment, our staff members know what it’s like to overcome addiction challenges. Many of them are in active recovery and are ready and willing to help you recover from drug addiction and strengthen your brain. You need to take the first step. Contact our office today at 855-629-3757 if you’re ready to begin, continue, or have questions about the recovery process. We designed our treatment programs for real people seeking real recovery.