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Understanding the science of addiction and recovery

Addiction Doctors

Addiction to various substances remains prevalent across the globe. Almost 13.8 million Americans, more than 7% of the population, have a drinking problem, according to a recent study. This includes the 8.1 million people with alcoholism. However, there is a specific science behind addiction and recovery that is critical for addiction doctors and patients to understand.

Reward System

The brain has what is frequently called a reward system. When a person does something, such as drink alcohol, the brain rewards the person with a rush of chemicals like dopamine. This encourages the person to drink more to get the same chemical rush. This complex network of neurotransmitters is supposed to regulate things like pleasure and motivation.

This same system also releases chemicals when we do things we must do for survival, like eating. This is how it encourages eating disorders like binge eating. As a person continues to use substances, such as alcohol or opioids, the brain responds less to survival behaviors like eating. Instead, it slowly produces more rewards when those particular substances are used, encouraging addiction. This is why help from addiction doctors is often necessary.


Neuroplasticity is the brain’s remarkable ability to change and adapt. The brain can rewire itself, often seen in substance abuse disorders. The brain gets used to the substance and rewires to accommodate the drug or alcohol. This rewiring can lead to changes in a person’s impulse control, ability to manage stress and make decisions. All of these symptoms increase the chances of relapse. That’s why it’s essential to seek help from addiction doctors.

When it comes to addiction, this rewiring encourages dependence. The brain responds less to other things because it relies on substance abuse to get dopamine, a chemical necessary to control stress. As time passes, cravings often worsen, and impulses are harder to control. This results in an individual struggling to control whether they want the drug. Instead, they feel like they need it like most people need food, and the lack of impulse control drives them further into addiction.

Addiction doctors understand the science behind addiction. They know the short-term effects and how the brain rewires to make room for drugs and alcohol. That’s why many doctors work one-on-one with patients to treat long-term symptoms of addiction. Contact us for more information today.

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