Addiction Psychology

What Can Be Learned From Addiction Psychology?

Most believe that becoming an addict occurs because of a weak personality; however, recent medical studies have shown that addiction is in fact a disease of the brain.
Brain imaging is used in addiction psychology studies. These studies show 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. Once the natural receptors are blocked, a person becomes tolerant and dependent on the substance which causes an addiction.
Addiction Psychology

Studying the Brain and Addiction

Through neuro-imaging, medical experts are able to scan the brain in order to learn about mental disorders and substance addiction. While the tests cannot diagnose a mental disorder or substance addiction, they can rule out medical illnesses that may be contributing to a person’s mental and physical well-being. The images are mostly utilized to compare a healthy brain with a brain that is suffering from a disorder; they are able to show brain damage as well as brain development.

Scientists also use state of the art technology when conducting research into addiction.
Technology such as positron emission tomography (PET), single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and functioned magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to track changes in all regions of the brain and map the distribution of neurotransmitters.

These new imaging tools allow experts to better understand addiction psychology and how each brain region affect mood and other functions. Armed with this knowledge new and targeted treatments are created to support recovery.

Addiction psychology studies show that the areas of the brain that affect mental health disorders and substance abuse are:

  • Hippocampus: Studies show that those with a smaller hippocampus produce mood boosting neurons slower than others which impairs the growth of nerve cells. The impairment of nerve growth causes low moods.
  • Amygdala: The amygdala activates emotions; it increases its activity when people recall an emotionally charged memory. For those who suffer from a mental disorder or an addiction, they experience increased activity in their negative emotions.
  • Thalamus: The thalamus is responsible for receiving and relaying sensory information. If there are weak links in the sensory in and output, people may experience speech, behavioral and thinking problems.

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.

Addiction and Dopamine

Addiction Psychology
Substance abuse mostly effects our neurotransmitter Dopamine, which is the main function of our pleasure center. Dopamine is released when our bodies experience a pleasurable experience; and naturally, it takes a little time to fully release itself into our body. When a substance is introduced, dopamine is released faster and in a higher dose; and 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.

In order to properly treat addiction and help increase cognitive functioning skills, it is important to immerse yourself in therapeutic modalities. Certain therapies are designed to retrain the brain. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has an in-depth article on dopamine and addiction

Therapeutic Modalities for Addiction

The best rehab facilities will offer a wide variety of therapeutic modalities, including traditional and experiential approaches. Traditional therapies focus on recognizing maladaptive behaviors, realigning how patients deal with situations and teaching them how to think independently from stimuli. We want patients to focus on thinking positively in order for them to solve problems and create better outcomes. The experiential therapies are based upon uncovering subconscious issues and increasing longevity.

Family and the Recovery Process

Addiction Psychology
One of the most effective therapies, the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy teaches  patients coping mechanisms and allows them to acknowledge their addictive and maladaptive behaviors. The facility should also provide group and family therapies.

Including the family is essential for the recovery process. The facility can teach family members how to support their loved one through such a difficult time. Family can also learn the signs and symptoms of addiction in order to help others or keep their loved one on track during the long process of recovery.

Other therapies that can help treat addiction are:

  • Cognitive retraining
  • Mindfulness therapy
  • Brain wellness program
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy
  • Psychoeducational groups
  • Solution-focused brief therapy
  • Brief strategic family therapy
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Neurofeedback
  • Group therapy
  • Equine therapy

Elevate Understands Addiction Psychology

All therapies are provided to help patients further understand their mental and physical issues. They teach the skills necessary to cope with negative environments, as well as, how to avoid the possibility of relapse.

A relapse occurs when a recovering addict consumes a substance, such as drugs or alcohol, more than once. Relapse is inevitable if a recovering addict has not fully developed the coping skills or tools needed to combat their addiction. Elevate is here to treat your addiction and teach you how to live a sober, healthy life. We are proud of you for making the decision to receive treatment and will not let you down.

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