• Jessica Piszker

The Brain on Drugs and Treatment

How do drugs affect the brain?

Addiction can affect the brain on many levels. The chemical compounds found in different drugs (i.e. opioids, alcohol, etc. ) enter the brain and bloodstream once ingested. Once a chemical enters the brain, it can cause feelings of pleasure.


The feeling of pleasure is how a healthy brain identifies and encourages healthy behavior, such as socializing with loved ones. Our brains are wired to repeat pleasurable activities. Essentially, the brain encourages drug addiction because it causes a euphoric high.


Hollie Aardema, a therapist at Telebehavioral Health.US, states, "drugs work on the reward center of our brain, which is the dopamine receptors. When drugs flood this area with dopamine, which is our natural 'happy' neurotransmitter. So, it gives a feeling of intense pleasure." The way drugs produce a sense of euphoria powerfully reinforces the connection to the drug, the joy of consuming the drug, and the external cues linked to the experience.

Therefore, an individual's daily routine or specific environment can trigger uncontrollable cravings.


This can keep an individual on an emotional roller coaster. The individual could experience the feelings of deprivation and depression without the drug. Hollie adds, "as drug use increases, our body creates less dopamine on its own, so someone needs the drug-induced dopamine to feel good, or happy or even 'normal' in some instances." This can lead them to experience distressing symptoms and makes it difficult to ignore the substances they've used to trigger those receptors.

Short-term Effects of Drugs

  • Non-typical behavior (i.e. violent outbursts)

  • Mood swings

  • Impaired judgment

  • Compromised motor coordination

  • Delayed reactions

  • Memory lapses

Long-term Effects of Drugs

  • Paranoia

  • Hallucinations

  • Depression

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • Physical effects such as yellowing of the eyes

Prolonged substance abuse can lead to even more serious side effects. The use of drugs over an extended period of time can cause irreversible effects, and can also be fatal.

Treatment Options for Drug Addiction

The first step to recovery is making a commitment to change. It is normal to feel conflicted about giving up your drug of choice, even when you know it’s causing problems in your everyday life. Recovery is a journey which requires time, motivation, and support.

The treatment process is different for each individual, but there are countless options to choose from. It is important to find what works best and customize the treatment plan to the individual recovering.

We are going to dive into therapy treatment options in the future, but popular options include:

  • Biofeedback Therapy – This therapy utilizes electronic sensors on patients skin that allows the therapist to recommend techniques that can help overcome addictive patterns.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – This therapy works to uncover thoughts or feelings that may cause a relapse.

  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – This therapy is used to treat mental illness (i.e. OCD) in conjunction with substance abuse and ease triggers in everyday life.

  • Experiential Therapy – This therapy utilizes non-traditional ways to help treat recovering addicts such as, hiking or rock climbing.

  • Holistic Therapy – This therapy focuses on overall well-being and utilizes practices such as yoga to help with the healing process.

  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy – This therapy help individuals learn how to how to transform negative thoughts and behaviors attached to addiction.

  • Psychodynamic Therapy – This therapy allows individuals to dive into how their subconscious can relate to their addiction.

If you are interested in therapy treatment, Telebehavioral Health.US can assist you!

Other Types of Treatment

  • Inpatient Rehab

  • Outpatient Rehab

  • Drug and Alcohol Detox

  • Sober Living Homes

  • Treatment Medications

Support Groups

  • 12 Step Programs

  • Alcoholics Anonymous

  • Narcotics Anonymous

  • SMART Recovery

  • Al – Anon and Nar- Anon

  • Addiction Counselors

There are many additional options for treatment beyond the ones listed here. If you would like to explore even more options we are an excellent resource for you. You or your loved one can overcome addiction and heal!

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