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Timeline for Rewiring Your Brain After Addiction

08/09/2023

Can the brain really be rewired like an electrician rewires a home’s outdated electrical system? By removing old wiring and replacing it with state-of-the-art wiring, an electrician stops lights from blinking and dimming and circuit breakers from overloading. Rewiring an electrical system also ensures a home’s occupants live in a much safer environment.

Rewiring your brain after addiction is similar to an electrical rewiring project. Instead of replacing old wires with new wires, however, the recovering addict replaces self-destructive thought patterns with self-actualization thought patterns that restore chemical equilibrium in the brain.

The brain finds it relatively easy to rewire itself from nonaddicted to addicted. This happens because using drugs floods the pleasure and reward center of the brain with dopamine. A neurotransmitter regulating motivation, emotions, and cognition, dopamine also controls cravings for pleasurable sensations. The longer the brain’s pleasure center experiences dopamine-fueled feelings of euphoria, the more rewired it gets for demanding surges of dopamine.

This blog will provide insightful information about how long it takes to rewire the brain from addiction and why it’s important to understand the stages of the recovery timeline.

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Understanding the Brain's Adaptation to Addiction

Dopamine and Addiction

Neurotransmitters tell neurons how to make people feel emotionally at any given moment. Neurons have receptors on their cell surfaces specially designed to accept certain neurotransmitters. Addiction hyperstimulates neurons when dopamine floods the reward center. Eventually, the brain becomes addicted to dopamine. Just as a heroin addict needs more and more heroin to get high, the brain needs more and more dopamine to satisfy its craving for drug-induced euphoria.

The brain must be rewired to accept and maintain sobriety. Rewiring also helps restore structural problems involving connections among neurons in the prefrontal cortex that are responsible for controlling impulses and drug cravings.

How Neuroplasticity Helps Rewire the Brain From Addiction

Neuroscientists refer to the ability of the brain to form new neural connections in response to acquiring knowledge and experiences as neuroplasticity. Examples of neuroplasticity in action include learning a new skill, such as replacing an engine in an automobile or becoming proficient in two different languages.

Neuroplasticity is also responsible for the formation of bad habits. Eating or drinking more than we should and abusing drugs are examples of bad habits that can be unlearned by rewiring the brain.

How long rewiring the brain from addiction takes depends on multiple factors, such as the severity of the addiction, the age of the addict, and their mental health status, but it can be as long as 90 days. If you or someone you know is serious about becoming a patient at Beachway Recovery Center, keep reading to learn more about the stages of recovery and how the brain can be successfully rewired during recovery.

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Early Stages of Recovery: Detoxification and Withdrawal

Rewiring of the addicted brain begins in medical detox. While detoxing under the supervision of healthcare professionals, Beachway patients are given medications to ease withdrawal symptoms caused by the brain’s reaction to being deprived of dopamine. During detox, the brain starts to realize the anticipated surge of dopamine is not coming. This learning process associated with the early stages of recovery triggers the beginning of the brain rewiring itself to accept sobriety.

Detoxing is potentially dangerous to an addict if it’s not done in a hospital-like environment. Long-term addicts in withdrawal may experience mental and physical problems that require medical attention. In addition, substance abuse is often used as a form of self-medication for people with serious mental illnesses, such as PTSD and schizophrenia. A medically supervised detox provides mentally ill patients with access to immediate treatment, medications, and crisis counseling that helps them complete the detox process.

Early Recovery: Stabilization and Cognitive Changes

Following detox, patients enter early recovery, where rewiring of the brain is now progressing and cognitive changes are occurring. The transition into a residential treatment center begins at this point. Patients are given psychological and physical evaluations to ensure they receive the medications they need to treat mental or physical disorders.

Without dopamine destabilizing the reward and pleasure center of the brain, recovering addicts begin to think more rationally and objectively. Living in a residential treatment center removes them from triggers and cues that reinforce the habits associated with addiction: searching for drugs, calling drug dealers, checking and rechecking their stash of paraphernalia, and lying and stealing to obtain drugs. Individual and group counseling sessions, making lifestyle changes, developing healthy habits, and adjusting the way they perceive reality with cognitive behavioral therapy techniques all work to rewire the brain.

Mid-to-Late Recovery: Consolidation and Continued Healing

The stabilizing and strengthening of new neural pathways at this stage of recovery is referred to as consolidation. Although rewiring the brain for sobriety is a lifelong process, it’s at this point that a patient is genuinely enjoying a sense of physical and emotional well-being. They’re also understanding that their thought patterns as an addict were dysfunctional and unreliable. Moreover, the power that drug addiction had over their lives becomes clear and self-evident during mid-to-late recovery. It’s also at this stage that recovering addicts realize how they’ve hurt family members when in the depths of addiction.

Therapists at Beachway introduce relapse prevention and coping skills strategies to help patients through this particularly difficult period. In addition, therapists promote further rewiring of the brain from addiction by teaching patients about self-care and staying committed to their recovery program.

Long-Term Recovery: Sustaining Brain Rewiring

The ongoing process of brain rewiring in recovery requires self-reflection, learning new skills, adopting healthy habits, attending all therapy and support group appointments, and utilizing self-help resources. Keeping you rewired for sobriety means repeating these actions to reinforce connections your brain needs to successfully achieve long-term recovery.

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Learn About Beachway's Substance Abuse Treatment Programs

Recovering from addiction includes much more than detoxing. It involves getting to the underlying cause of your addiction, treating mental health problems that led to addiction, and rewiring the brain to sustain lifelong sobriety.

Beachway can help you or a loved one begin the gradual and ongoing process of rewiring the brain from addiction. The potential for recovery, transformation, and discovering your special place in life lies in the journey of brain rewiring and addiction treatment at Beachway.