Brain damage plays common role for relapse after treatment

Monday, December 7, 2015 | By JP Emerald Coast

Why Recovering Addicts Engage in Substance Abuse After Treatment

For the friends and family of those suffering with addiction, one of the worst experiences is looking on while someone once again turns to drugs or alcohol. The addicted individual can feel hopeless, knowing that they’re using again. There is never one reason that someone uses drugs or alcohol again after becoming sober for a short or long period of time. No two individuals are the same and everyone’s journey to recovery is unique.

Addiction and the Brain – A Destructive Relationship

One of the most powerful reasons for drug use after rehab is the undisputable fact that substance abuse severely disrupts chemical processes in the brain and can even alter brain architecture. In fact, structural MRI imaging studies have shown that substance abuse can shrink or enlarge some brain structures. Stimulants tend to enlarge the basal ganglia (learning, cognition, emotion) and shrink the hippocampus (memory storage), while opioid abuse diminishes functioning of the amygdala (memory, emotional reactions) and ultimately shrinks the size of this important brain structure.

Stimulant abuse (cocaine, methamphetamine, some club drugs) reduces signaling and neuronal activity in an area of the brain vital to making rational decisions instead of impulsive, irrational decisions. Serious brain injuries resulting from accidents that damage this part of the brain actually cause the same problems with decision-making and impulse control seen in drug addicts. Drug use after treatment may be the result of an addict failing to receive the additional medical treatments needed to improve health of these specific brain areas.

Recovering addicts may suffer also from undetected temporal lobe damage. Because the temporal lobe is responsible for organizing sensory input, hearing perception and memory formation, substance abusers may suffer noticeable deficits in these areas. If temporal lobe damage isn’t discovered and addressed, a recovering addict may find processing incoming sights, sounds and even tactile information chaotic and disturbing. They may turn to drug use after treatment when they can no longer deal with what they perceive as an inability to cope with recovery.

Depending on the severity of their addiction, temporal lobe damage – such as long-term memory impairment and disturbances in language comprehension – may be irreversible.

Emerald Coast JourneyPure provides the kind of compassionate, evidence-based addiction services needed by people seeking a way out of their addiction. If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction, don’t wait until it has caused brain damage that cannot be reversed. Call us today to learn more about our inpatient or outpatient services as well as individual/group therapy, crisis intervention and holistic programs.

Some additional reasons for drug use after rehab include:

1) A co-occurring mental health challenge. It is very common for those struggling with addiction to have a co-occurring mental health challenge, but some individuals are misdiagnosed or undiagnosed altogether. Even those with diagnosis and any necessary medication may have a difficult time managing a co-occurring challenge, whether it is bipolar disorder or chronic pain. Many individuals with mental health challenges or chronic disease self-medicate with drugs. If an individual undergoes addiction treatment without treating co-occurring challenges, he or she may feel it necessary to abuse substances in the future to help manage their symptoms. To prevent this common reason for relapse, utilize a professional treatment facility, like JourneyPure Emerald Coast, that utilizes a holistic approach in treating substance abuse, chemical dependency and mental health challenges at one time.


2) Environmental triggers. Many people have trouble understanding the culture of drug or alcohol abuse and how it can be all-encompassing for even a high-functioning individual. Following treatment, an individual may be exposed to the same people, sights, smells and places that he or she used to associate with getting high or drunk. Additionally, the brain recognizes these as triggers or predecessors to mind-altering substances and the cravings can become very strong sub-consciously. Individuals must incorporate social skills, activities and self-care into addiction treatment to prevent themselves from falling into the same lifestyle associated with using.


3) Incomplete or insufficient treatment. While the individual struggling with addiction may have undergone drug or alcohol treatment before using again, there is a chance that the program was not effective for a number of reasons. Perhaps the individual was using numerous drugs, but only sought specific treatment for alcohol. Perhaps the individual is suffering from symptoms of post-trauma or abuse, but counseling was not incorporated into treatment. Other options may include a lack of proper treatment, diagnosis or medication for an existing medical or mental condition that contributes to the addiction. For optimal results, seek treatment from a center that incorporates a multi-level and dimensional approach to addiction recovery.


4) Biological reasons. Addiction is truly a disease and individuals may take a long time to fully recover from its biological effects. Regular drug use can affect brain chemistry, thought processes and decision-making. Not only does the disease make an individual crave the drug, it also can affect his or her ability to say no to using again. This is not an excuse — it is a real consequence of drug addiction. Long-term drug treatment and ongoing support such as meetings, counseling or outpatient programs can be beneficial in helping individuals battle the addiction long-term.


5) Life changes. Much of what life throws at us can be unexpected or stressful. Coupled with addiction and the journey of recovery, individuals may feel it is all too much to bear alone. Without additional coping mechanisms and mood regulation help, those recovering may know drugs or alcohol as the only things that help them cope with life’s major problems. Relapse is not uncommon following the loss of a job, death of a loved one or divorce. Coping mechanisms, self-exploration and healthy habits should all be a part of addiction treatment so that individuals are equipped with the tools necessary to function healthfully in a sometimes challenging world.

If you or a loved one is considering treatment for an addiction relapse, make this time count.

JourneyPure Emerald Coast is a treatment facility that addresses the underlying mental and emotional challenges that may be contributing to addiction. Contact us today to learn more.

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