One of the areas of the brain that can easily be affected by effects of substance abuse is the hypothalamus area. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for several duties including controlling of the body temperature, hunger, thirst, and sleep. Owing to these functions, the hypothalamus is equally playing a key role in how we respond to stress. According to the experts at AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center which is one of the leading pioneers in natural and holistic addiction treatment, we cannot effectively talk about addiction without the mention one stress. Doctor Dalal Akoury MD and also the founder of this facility agree that stress regulation is highly relevant to our understanding of addiction. And that is why we want to explore further into details the effects of addiction on the hypothalamus area of the brain even as we also look the stress regulation and withdrawal. It is therefore important to note that when an individual experiences stress, the hypothalamus releases chemicals known as hormones. It is these hormones that allows’ the brain and the body to respond to that stress. Unlike neurotransmitters (which are chemicals limited to the brain) hormones travel throughout the body via the blood system. It therefore means that hormones can exert an effect on other body systems as well. When these chemical hormones operate in the brain, we refer to them as neuromodulators. These hormones (neuromodulators) can act just like neurotransmitters in the brain. Like neurotransmitters, they have their own receptors associated with them.
From our studies, it is obvious that stress is a well-known relapse trigger to all users of drugs. It capable of prompt powerful cravings in addicted persons I can therefore say almost with certainty that majority of us in one way or another have come across someone who struggled with an addiction and tried to quitting but ultimately relapsed when they became stressed out. Doctor Akoury says that under normal circumstances, at the beginning periods of recovery withdrawal symptoms often create stress and the vicious cycle continues. It is however very important to appreciate that stress will always prompts the addictive use, while efforts to discontinue use prompt stress. During withdrawal, these stress hormones are elevated. Even though stress levels are high, the brain’s anti-stress neuromodulators appear to decrease, as do dopamine and serotonin in the nucleus accumbens. This suggests that withdrawal affected the reward system (evidenced by decreasing dopamine and serotonin). At the same time, withdrawal activates the stress and anxiety systems. This “1-2 punch” heightens the negative experience of withdrawal. This prompts people to seek relief via the addictive substance or activity (i.e., relapse).
- The negative emotional memory that is associated with drug withdrawal
- The positive emotional memory that is associated with drug cues
- The disruption that occurs to stress regulation
- The pleasurable relief from withdrawal symptoms that occurs by resuming drug use or addictive activities
There’s no doubt that addiction is wreaking havoc on the brain. That is the naked truth that addiction causing significant chemical, structural, and molecular changes that quite literally hijack the brain. However, treatment can reverse or counteract these effects. Besides, as the recovery process proceeds, the brain continues to heal. And even though it is true that many changes do occur in the brain after addiction takes hold. Nonetheless, we must also remember that the brain is a dynamic and ever-changing system. Changes to the brain’s neuronal circuits, chemistry, and structures powerfully drive the addiction forward. However, a strong motivation to change, can just as powerfully counter these changes. People can learn new coping skills. They can practice behavioral modification techniques. These efforts will counter those damaging changes.
Abstinence from addictive substances or activities can lead to a reversal of many physical changes that occurred during addiction. Combination therapies (medications plus psychotherapy) help the recovery process by managing the physiological effects of addiction and withdrawal. Cognitive-behavioral treatments work to mend and repair the psychological impact of addiction. Doctor Akoury says that from this discussion, it should come out clearly that the brain is quite amazing. Like for instance it has the capacity to control its own physiology and is highly adaptive. Each behavioral step we make forward has a beneficial physiological effect on the brain. Therefore a sincere effort to change behavior is a powerful tool that mends the damaged brain. It therefore means that when we change our behaviors by finding new healthy outlets for satisfying cravings, we succeed in correcting the damaged brain functions. These positive changes form new memory and behavioral circuits in the brain that strengthen and reinforce recovery efforts. Yes, the brain has changed because of the addictive process. Nevertheless, even people with severe addiction problems succeed in overcoming their addictions. Many do so without any outside help. Motivation is one of the key.
We have introduced the Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual (BPSS) model of addiction. We will use this model to answer the question “How do people get addicted?” So far, we have reviewed the biological reasons people can get addicted. The biological portion of the BPSS model considers addiction a brain disease with biological, chemical, and genetic roots.
We now turn our attention to the psychological portion of the BPSS model. The psychological portion of the BPSS model views addiction in different ways. It is important to note that people may get addicted to whatever they are addicted to through various means including the following:
- It could be as a result of learning the habit from others
- People may find recovery difficult because of the way they think about things.
- They may also lack good problem-solving skills.
- Addiction may occur as a means of coping with uncomfortable feelings.
- Addiction could also develop because of a personality defect or mental disorder.
- Addiction may be due to developmental immaturity.
We will explore the psychological factors that affect addiction and recovery in due course however, even if addiction originated because of some biological process, it is important to note that recovery from addiction requires people to become motivated to make significant changes. Psychology is a science that studies what motivates people to behave in certain ways. Therefore people can improve the quality of their lives by learning new behaviors and changing old thought patterns. People can also benefit from increasing their maturity, and improving their copings skills. Finally to get these full benefits, it is only fair for you to consult with the experts at AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center under the professional guidance of doctor Dalal Akoury today to free yourself from all the effects of addiction on the hypothalamus area of your brain and all other organs of your body today.