How Stress and Addiction Affects Your Brain

man with Stress and Addiction using laptop and drinking

There’s an undeniable link between stress and addiction. We live in a world where there’s an ever-increasing amount of hardships in people’s lives – money, jobs, pandemics, inequality, injustices, divorces, fights, and more.

Luckily, there are all sorts of ways to relieve stress. People can work out, do yoga, talk to friends, watch television, play video games, or meditate. However, many instead turn to their vices, such as drugs and alcohol.

Having a drink or taking medication as prescribed by itself is pretty harmless. However, turning to such behaviors in times of stress can quickly lead to psychological dependency. When addiction threatens your mental health, reach out to the inpatient detox center in Florida.

The Link Between Stress and Addiction

Stress when mishandled causes addiction. The main reason people turn to drugs or other substances is that they make people temporarily feel good. Consuming drugs and alcohol stimulate the brain’s reward center with the “feel good” chemical called dopamine. People love that temporary rush and seek it out repeatedly.

Nearly anything with addictive properties can cause dopamine rushes. Social media, gambling, and eating junk food all serve the brain’s pleasure center and prompt the user to crave it more. Drug and alcohol are one facet of possible addictions.

Both men and women who experienced stressful situations were more likely to drink alcohol. Among those who experienced six or more stressful events, men were 1.5 times more likely to engage in binge drinking than women. Alcohol use disorder is also 2.5 times more common in men than in women. But finding help sooner rather than later at an alcohol detox center can alleviate symptoms of alcohol abuse.

Similarly, a 2013 study compared the habits and lifestyles of 150 male opium addicts and 150 healthy subjects. Researchers found that the addicts had far more stressful events in the two years leading up to their addiction when compared to the control group. Plus, addicts were far less likely to use problem-focused coping methods such as time management, problem avoidance, and asking for help.

If you or a loved one copes with stress by using alcohol or drugs, call 866.341.0638 for help. Our specialized detox programs, like opioid detox, help reduce the discomforts of withdrawal.

How Stress and Addiction Change the Brain

Unfortunately, stress and addiction also change your brain for the worse. Our brains have many dopamine receptors (D2) that contribute to positive emotions. People with a high number of D2 receptors in their brains naturally experience intense feelings of pleasure and euphoria and often don’t need to turn to addictive substances.

However, both stress and addiction lower D2 levels even in healthy participants. As dopamine receptors weaken, users must compensate by consuming even more drugs. This vicious cycle makes addiction very difficult to overcome.

Sadly, these D2 deficiencies remain long after drug use stops. This deficiency causes users to feel less motivated or energized as they don’t take as much pleasure out of things as they once did. However, a medical detox program provides closely monitored medicines and vitamins to promote healing and proper levels of chemicals in the brain.

Addiction also lowers activity in the pre-frontal cortex – the area of the brain responsible for self-control, rationality, and critical thinking.

Another way that stress changes the brain is by changing its chemistry and setting a new “normal.” Long-term heavy drinking causes the brain to release cortisol, which can fundamentally change how the mind and body perceive and react to stressful situations. For example, a heavy drinker might find themselves more anxious compared to a non-drinker in the same scenario. This process of shifting hormonal balance is called allostasis.

Cortisol also plays a role in education and memory. This would be good in most situations, but cortisol increases can, unfortunately, teach someone to become dependent on alcohol through habit-based learning. Cortisol can also lead to metabolic and psychiatric problems.

Getting Help for Addiction

Everyone goes through hardships, but drug abuse is never the solution. Find out how to manage your stress and addiction with Summit Detox. Get yourself on the road to recovery by contacting us at 866.341.0638 today.

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