People act out most of their day with releases of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, in the brain. Dopamine gets released for all sorts of things like hunger to prompt the person to eat or sexual libido to get the person to reproduce. The body is dependent on dopamine to survive. It is no surprise then that when illegal drugs are introduced as a shortcut for dopamine, the brain becomes dependent on those substances too, like food or water.
The difference between drugs and water is that water does not cause life-threatening health problems later in life, whereas drugs do. As the individual’s brain gets used to the drug, the pleasure that was once derived from the drug decreases and a need for the drug increases, which is also known as addiction. Regardless of what others say about drugs, addiction is not fun because the pleasure of the drug use is diminished and replaced by intense cravings that only fulfill the relief of the painful withdrawal symptoms.
However, new research has been looking into whether the brain can fully heal from drug addiction. Evidence from brain scans of drug users shows that after 14 months of abstinence from the drug, the dopamine transport levels return to very close-to-normal levels. Improvements in short-term memory, executive functioning, and negative emotionality have been shown in abstinence from alcohol. There is hope that after recovery, the brain can return to normal functioning and that potential brain damage from drug use can be reversed.
So once someone has gone through all the detox, rehabilitation, and is now completely drug-free, what happens next? Returning to life with family, work, and friends after going through drug addiction can be a daunting task. To repair family relationships, the individual has to rebuild the trust, which takes patience and persistence. Give loved ones time to adjust to everything that just happened, and over time, mutual trust will build up again. It is like starting from scratch and building from the ground up. Concerning work, the individual needs to find a job that is not overly stressed because stress could knock the individual back into using drugs again. Regarding worrying whether an employer will hire a prior drug user, the Rehabilitation Act and Americans with Disabilities Act prevent employers from dismissing previous drug users as long as the individual is clean. Overall, find ways to repair previously broken relationships with people that may have been hurt during the drug use period and likely they will be happy that the drug use has ended.
A mistake that most recovering addicts make is that they return to the same friends and environment that encouraged them to start using drugs in the first place. The reason why this is a bad idea is that psychologically, the mind takes in stimuli and interprets some stimuli as reinforcers. Reinforcers, specifically, positive reinforcers are stimuli that encourage an individual to keep practicing a particular action. Some reinforcers are conscious like the pleasure one receives from injecting heroin, whereas other reinforcers are subconscious, like the room that the individual regularly uses heroin in. These reinforcers can easily trigger a relapse. Familiarity can bring someone right back to the heydays of using.
Asana Recovery offers a community that helps individuals overcome drug addiction with a supportive environment of dedicated professionals. They help get people back on their feet and provide the full detox and rehabilitation program with various therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Art Therapy. Call 949-438-4504 to learn more about their treatment programs.