For someone unfortunate enough to be in the throes of drug addiction, understanding the damage you’re doing to your body can be nearly impossible. These mind-altering chemicals interfere with vital neurotransmitters, tricking your brain into believing that your priority is drug use.
Long-term drug use damages cells in the brain, as well as taking a toll on the rest of the body. Most of these effects can be overcome, with professional care, abstinence and ongoing therapy.
Healing the Mind and Body
The physical effects of drug use take time to reverse. Continued sobriety, in addition to healthy lifestyle choices, will restore you to health. Drug addiction and mental illness have a reciprocal connection, and many people take drugs to self-medicate. The changes drugs make to your brain can persist for years after you stop taking them, which is why abstinence is recommended. Once sober, you’ll need therapy to enable you to live life to the fullest and reach your full potential.
How Do Drugs Hijack the Brain?
In the past, people were skeptical about the idea that drugs alter your brain and thought of addiction as an unhealthy choice some people make. Many scientists and sufferers have argued the opposite for years, and recent advances in our understanding of how the brain works have proven that substance use disorders are not conscious decisions at all.
Our reward centers are programmed in a certain way. For instance, we need to eat food to live, so a neurotransmitter is released when we eat to make us feel good and encourage us to repeat the behavior. The same is true of sex — procreation continues our species, so our brains provide an incentive to enjoy and repeat sexual activity. Put simply, when you do something good, the reward system entices you to repeat the action. This is a fundamental tenet of human existence.
It’s this system that drugs hijack — and there is no way of reversing it. This is why abstinence is so essential for people who have struggled with addiction. Detoxing or getting clean doesn’t invalidate the inherent predisposition you have towards misusing a substance. Addiction is a chronic disease, and therapy and professional care help to prevent relapse in the future.
The Connection Between Drug Addiction and Mental Illness
Self-medicating to escape difficult emotions associated with mental illness is common. However, drug use tends to exacerbate mental health problems. This is partly due to the depletion of vital feel-good neurotransmitters caused by drug use and partly because covering up a feeling doesn’t make it go away. Avoiding our emotions or not facing up to them usually makes matters worse.
Starting treatment for addiction can be a revelation for some people because it kick-starts the therapy process. By seeking professional help, you can manage depression, anxiety, stress, and personality disorders and live a full, happy life.
You Can’t Underestimate the Benefits of a Healthy Lifestyle
Exercise, mindfulness, routine, hobbies and a healthy diet often become distant memories for those going through addiction. Each one is essential to living a fulfilling and happy life as a human being. While the effects aren’t always instant, focusing on setting goals and celebrating achievements brings long-term, genuine satisfaction.
Our Brains Are Impressive Organs
One of the most incredible aspects of our bodies is the brain’s ability to adapt and repair. While many drugs actively cause the loss of brain cells and distort the way it functions, the brain is highly adept at repairing itself. The healthier your lifestyle is, the more likely your brain is to heal.