The Effects of Addiction and Hope for Healing
It is often easier for you to see addictions in other people, than it is to see them in yourself.
This is because the process of becoming addicted happens gradually.
By the time an addiction is obvious to other people, the parts of your brain that reason with logic and a clear thinking has atrophied. But there is hope for those of you who struggle with addiction. And for those who know people currently struggling.
In learning how addictions affect the brain over time, and how to undo the damage, we can help others overcome addictive behaviors and find healing.
While we tend to think of addictions as relating to drugs and alcohol, there are countless addictive behaviors that could negatively affect the brain. Some of the most common are drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, food, and technology. Regardless of the kind of addiction, the impact on a person's brain could be debilitating. The cycle of addiction begins when a person experiences pleasure, and the main neurotransmitter, dopamine, is released. This release of dopamine attaches to dendrites.
In normal amounts, this is healthy. It’s what allows us to find pleasure in eating our favorite foods, riding a rollercoaster, swimming in the ocean, and so much more. However, when there is overstimulation, a massive amount of dopamine is released, which depletes the rest of the body of dopamine. The dendrites multiply and demand more stimulation. The body, which is depleted, seeks more dopamine to satisfy the demand of the dendrites. This slowly creates a cycle of overstimulation, a depletion of dopamine, an increase in dendrites, and a demand for more stimulation.
In other words, an addictive cycle in which the brain craves more and more dopamine to function.
Addictions often lead to atrophy of the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is crucial in our executive functioning. It affects our impulse control, reasoning, personality, behavior flexibility, attention, organizing, future planning, decision making, social interactions, and more. Having a compromised functioning prefrontal cortex is one of the biggest neurological concerns in all addictions due to the impact it has on the addicts ability to maintain and manage their life. This includes their relationships, finances, careers, and other areas of responsibility.
While addiction is a serious health concern in which many people struggle to overcome, there is hope for healing.
Though addicts often feel alone in their battle, the most important part of recovery is finding a support system. Upon admitting that there is a problem, and choosing to confront it, the next step in recovery is seeking help from others. This could be family members, friends, mental health professionals, a church community, or a support group such as Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, and other groups that work to help addicts find healing.
In order to gain back a sense of control, one cannot do it alone.
Another step towards finding hope in healing is by restoring the health of the brain. Vitamins and minerals could help in balancing dopamine levels in the brain, which will help an addict gain more clarity in their thought process. Bananas, for example, have phenolic constituents that contribute to producing l-dopa and dopamine. Other foods that help to support healthy dopamine levels include avocados, beets, asparagus, lentils, and lima beans, which contain folate.
Essential oils can help, too. essential oils that contain high levels of limonene have been shown in research to have a positive effect on dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. In fact,in a research study on mice that were given methamphetamines, limonene reversed elevated levels of dopamine and helped the brain modulate excitatory activity. Limonene is found in the following essential oils: grapefruit, lime, lemon, orange, and bergamot. Carvacrol, found in oregano essential oil and thyme essential oil, has also been found in research to interact positively with the dopaminergic system. While essential oils do not cure addictions, they support the body and brain in getting to a better place where recovery is possible, with help.
Though the most effective method for overcoming addiction is prevention, many people fail to see the signs until the problem is too big. So by creating awareness, and tending to the parts of the brain that are most impacted by addiction, and also responsible for deterring many from seeking help, recovery from any addiction is possible. It takes a support system, and a restoration of one’s brain health, but there is always hope for healing.
Check out my Brain Talk on The Effects of Addiction below and Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for many more videos on Essential Oils and the Brain.