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Is Addiction A Brain Disease

Studies Show Addiction As A Brain Disease

Addiction occurs when an individual becomes tolerant and dependent on a substance. Most believe that becoming an addict occurs because of a weak personality; however, recent medical studies have shown that addiction is in fact a brain disease.

Brain imaging shows that substances significantly alter the brain’s anatomy and physiology. Every substance has some sort of effect on the brain’s neurotransmitters and over time, block its receptors.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse studied the limbic system, the brainstem and the cerebral cortex to analyze how substances affect each area. The limbic system controls our emotional responses and leads to the repetition of gratifying experiences. The brainstem is connected to our spinal cord, which is responsible for autonomic processes and is greatly affected by substances. And lastly, the cerebral cortex. This is the most important function of critical thinking, problem-solving and learning.

Substances mostly affect our neurotransmitter, Dopamine, which is the main function of our pleasure center. It is released when our bodies experience a pleasurable experience. Naturally, dopamine takes a little time to fully release itself into our body; however, when a substance is introduced, it is released faster and in a higher dose. This might sound alluring; however, when our sensors are tricked, this causes the brain to release less, or even no, dopamine over time.

Another function that is affected by substance is our ability to learn and function normally. According to recent research, three out of four chronic alcoholics have significant decreases in their cognitive functioning. Alcohol is also the most common cause of dementia in older adults; therefore, it is quite apparent that substances have a significant negative effect on our brain’s ability to learn and function.

Substance abuse may not always turn into addiction, which is why most scientists believe that addiction can be caused by multiple variables, including brain disease.

Sprout Health Arizona understands that addiction is a brain disease that needs to be treated with cognitive behavioral therapies. Our therapies teach coping mechanisms in order to overcome triggers that may cause the urge to use.

We provide many comprehensive treatment programs, including the Brain Wellness program that was created to promote optimum functioning of the brain. Our programs help improve mental health and allow our patients to take control of their lives.


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