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How Addiction Affects And Destroys the Brain

It is commonly known that addiction is a long-lasting and complex brain disease. Addiction changes the brain’s natural balance by interfering with the way neurons send, receive, and process signals. It is this imbalance that increases the ability to hijack and/or even destroy key brain regions that are meant for basic survival. Drugs have been known to alter important areas in the brain that are necessary for life-sustaining functions and often create the compulsive drug use that triggers addiction.

Historical Perspective:

According to an article from Harvard Medical School entitled “How addiction hijacks the brain” researchers in the 1930’s started to investigate what caused addictive behavior. At first they  believed that people who developed addictions were morally flawed and/or simply lacking in willpower. In order to overcome addiction involved punishment or encouraging them to muster the will to break a habit. “The scientific consensus has changed since then. Today we recognize addiction as a chronic disease that changes both brain structure and function. Just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and diabetes impairs the pancreas, addiction hijacks the brain”

Moreover, for many years experts were convinced that only alcohol and powerful drugs could cause addiction. However, after Neuroimaging technologies and additional research have shown that certain pleasurable activities, such as gambling, shopping, and sex, can also hijack the brain in a similar way.

Understanding the Brain’s “Reward” Circuit – Dopamine

The brain acknowledges all pleasures whether its from alcohol, drugs, rewards, sex or even a satisfying meal. When pleasure occurs it releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. However, the key takeaway here is that Addictive drugs provide a shortcut to the brain’s reward system by flooding the nucleus accumbens with dopamine. For example, Addictive drugs can release two (2) to ten (10) times the amount of dopamine that natural rewards do, and they do it more quickly and more reliably. In addition, it is known that Dopamine is not only associated with the experience of pleasure, but also plays an important role in learning and memory (hence the transition from liking something to becoming addicted)

Harvard Health also goes on to say that “All drugs of abuse, from nicotine to heroin, cause a particularly powerful surge of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. The likelihood that the use of a drug or participation in a rewarding activity will lead to addiction is directly linked to the speed with which it promotes dopamine release, the intensity of that release, and the reliability of that release. Even taking the same drug through different methods of administration can influence how likely it is to lead to addiction. Smoking a drug or injecting it intravenously, as opposed to swallowing it as a pill, for example, generally produces a faster, stronger dopamine signal and is more likely to lead to drug misuse.”

About BrainSpark Health

Here at BrainSpark, we provide a revolutionary alternative that targets the source of the dependency and craving first, jump starting the brain with a chemical “spark,” and combining holistic, alternative medicine, and social reprogramming. This is accomplished through NAD IV therapy, which replenishes the metabolic co-enzyme Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD) through daily intravenous treatment.  We are dedicated to constantly working towards helping those with any kind of addiction. ​Our aim is to treat the source of the dependency and craving: the brain. We do this by jump starting it with a chemical spark, combining holistic, alternative medicine and social reprogramming instead of the conventional treatment currently available and proven to have over 85% failure rate. Click here to learn more about our ​Addiction Recovery Treatment

Ciara Levine – Clinical Director (Psychiatric Nurse, MSN, RN, PMHCNS)

Ciara is our Intake Coordinator/Mental Health Professional that offers an atmosphere of support so that together we can work to alleviate distress and make lasting changes. We will have the opportunity to make positive and healthy improvements to your life. My professional and personal journey have led me to be compassionate, direct and goal oriented with my clients. My approach is interactive, utilizing the theories of cognitive behavioral therapy and family systems therapy.

As a registered nurse for 22 years and an advanced practice psychiatric mental health nurse for 18 years, I have had the opportunity of helping countless individuals achieve behavioral changes that have resulted in lasting improvements in their lives.