Drug addiction can have a devastating impact on your body and your mind. When you end your abuse of addictive substances, you can begin to regain your physical health. You can also improve your mental well-being by taking steps to rewire your brain from addiction.
Damaging Effects of Drug Addiction on the Brain
Drugs can disrupt your brain’s ability to disseminate information throughout your central nervous system (CNS):
- In a healthy, functioning CNS, cells called neurons pass messages from the brain to other body parts.
- They accomplish this by using neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that can cross the gaps that separate neurons.
- The messages that neurotransmitters carry throughout your body’s neural network are responsible for myriad functions, including heart rate, respiration, and movement via muscle contractions.
- Neurotransmitters also carry information that regulates your appetite, emotions, sleep patterns, thought processes, and ability to manage stress.
Addictive substances can alter your body’s ability to produce, send, and receive neurotransmitters. This prevents your brain from communicating with other parts of the body, which can prompt a host of abnormal thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
The way that the central nervous system delivers information from the brain has been compared to the way that wiring carries electricity throughout a house. This is why recovery is sometimes described as an attempt to rewire the brain from addiction.
Can You Heal Your Brain Following Addiction?
If you have already begun to research ways to rewire the brain from addiction, you have probably encountered the word neuroplasticity. (If this term is unfamiliar to you, don’t worry – we’re about to explain its importance.)
Neuroplasticity, which is sometimes called neural plasticity, describes the ability of the brain and central nervous system to adapt due to either internal or external stimuli.
In other words, your body has the ability to change the structure and functionality of your brain and CNS in the aftermath of being damaged by drug abuse and addiction. Neuroplasticity can even involve developing new neural connections to replace ones that cannot be repaired.
It is important to understand that neuroplasticity is a two-way street. When you become addicted to alcohol or another substance, your central nervous system can undergo changes in both structure and function. This, too, is an example of neuroplasticity.
When we discuss how to rewire the brain from addiction, we are talking about harnessing the power of neuroplasticity to reverse the changes that the drugs have caused.
Various forms of therapy can promote this type of brain healing. When you learn relapse-prevention skills, develop more effective stress-management capabilities, and replace self-defeating thought patterns with healthier ways of thinking, you are, in effect, rewiring your brain.
How Long Can it Take to Rewire Your Brain from Addiction?
Two common questions about neuroplasticity are how do you rewire the brain from addiction and how long does this process take?
In the previous section, we addressed the fundamentals of neuroplasticity and listed some of the ways that treatment can help. But we didn’t offer any timelines. This wasn’t an accident or an oversight.
The time it can take to rewire the brain from addiction can vary a great deal from one person to the next. Factors that can influence this timeframe include:
- The person’s age and developmental level
- How long the person has been addicted to alcohol or another drug
- How frequently they engaged in substance abuse, and how much of the drug they typically used
- The degree of damage that this drug use inflicted on their central nervous system
- If they have a history of untreated trauma
- If they also have anxiety, depression, or another co-occurring mental health disorder
Neuroplasticity can begin to take effect within days after a person stops using the drug that they had become addicted to. But this is not a rapid process. Depending on factors such as the ones we just listed, it can take months or even years to rewire the brain from addiction.
What At-Home Remedies Can Help You Heal Your Brain?
Professional treatment can be an important part of the effort to rewire your brain after you’ve ended your substance abuse. But you don’t have to rely solely on professionals to promote the healing process. Here are four at-home activities that can be very helpful:
- Learn something: Take a class to pick up a new skill. Research a topic that has always interested you. Download an app and practice a new language. Any type of learning is a great way to promote brain health.
- Stay active: Exercise isn’t only good for the body. It can also keep your brain strong and healthy. You don’t have to hit the gym every day to reap benefits. Go for walks. Play with your dog. Ride your bike. Plant flowers and pull weeds. When you find activities that you enjoy, you will be more likely to turn them into healthy habits.
- Play music: Studies have shown that playing or even listening to music can promote positive neuroplasticity among people whose brains have been damaged by various types of harm.
- Meditate regularly: Research has also documented the many cognitive benefits of meditation, such as improved memory and an increased ability to focus and concentrate.
Contact Renewal Health Group About Our Addiction Treatment Programs in Southern California
Renewal Health Group is a trusted provider of premier addiction treatment services for adults in southern California. Our full continuum of care includes detoxification, residential treatment, and several outpatient programs.
In every program and at every level of care, our patients work in active collaboration with a team of highly skilled treatment professionals. We fully assess each person’s needs, then develop the customized programming that will put them on the path toward improved health and successful recovery.
When you’re ready to end your drug use and rewire your brain from addiction, the Renewal Health Group team is here to help. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact page or call us today.