The Impact of Substance Abuse on Cognitive Function

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, you might notice changes in things like:

  • Memory
  • Response Time
  • Decision Making

These all represent signs of the impact of drug abuse on the brain. addiction changes the brain function by overriding regions of the brain connected to responsible decision making and enhancing the areas of the brain that focus solely on immediate reward.

Addiction changes cognition from a psychological and neurological perspective. There are several regions and processes within the brain that control essential cognitive functions like reasoning, impulse control, attention, memory, and learning.

Drug abuse changes the structure and function in these regions, which causes a shift that promotes maladaptive or harmful learning and decision-making and inhibits the adaptation of healthy behaviors.

The brain essentially learns that harmful behaviors are good and helpful behaviors are bad. This type of pathological learning shapes behaviors by changing the reward system in the brain, like the dopamine system, but it can be altered and reversed with the right help.

Addiction and Cognitive Function

The impact of substance abuse on cognitive function can make it such that decision-making is more challenging. 

Studies have found that there are links between:

  • General cognition and drug abuse
  • Reward-based decision-making and addiction
  • Relapse and cognitive function 
  • Limited executive function because of addiction

Changes to the Brain

Addiction and cognitive function have an inverse relationship whereby the longer you struggle with addiction, the worse your cognitive function becomes.

Addiction changes the growth in different areas of the brain, increasing growth in the amygdala and diminishing growth in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for decision-making and higher cognitive function, as well as controlling impulsivity, whereas the amygdala encourages impulsivity and risky behavior.

The brain, however, is the same as any other muscle in your body such that you can grow new neural connections and strengthen the areas you want. With our programs, we provide evidence-based treatment that targets the improved growth of your mind and body, overcoming the harmful impact of drug abuse and improving your cognitive function.

With time, the right treatment can help you retrain your mind to avoid impulsive or risky decisions and make smarter, healthier choices.

Changes to Dopamine

Similarly, addiction can alter neurotransmitters in the brain, like dopamine. One of the biggest impacts on cognitive function relates to your level of dopamine production. Under normal circumstances, you receive a hit of dopamine that is modulated, released, and then reabsorbed when you do something productive or beneficial, like exercise or eating a healthy meal.

Addiction hijacks the system and releases higher than normal levels and prevents reabsorption so that you enjoy the feeling for a longer amount of time. However, it only does this when you abuse drugs, which means you don't get the same feeling when you do things that are good for your body.

These types of changes can be targeted with things like cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing. 

Getting Help with Thrive Treatment

At our drug detox center in Los Angeles, we understand the impact of drug abuse on your physical and emotional health. That is why we design personalized programs for addiction and cognitive function, which include motivational interviewing, CBT, DBT, family therapy, and relapse prevention. 

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is a way to help give you the motivation you need to make real changes. A therapist works with you to locate your intrinsic motivation and take control over improving your cognitive function and your long-term recovery.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Relapse Prevention

A big part of the cognitive changes brought about by addiction has to do with relapse. You are more likely to relapse once you struggle with addiction because your brain only rewards that impulsivity, the decision to use more or to drink more.

Our Los Angeles drug rehab offers several therapies to help you make better choices and avoid going back to drugs or alcohol. With relapse prevention services like massage, meditation, yoga, and motivational interviewing, you can receive optimum treatment that gives you the tools you need to control stressful situations and avoid impulsive decisions.

Overall, the impact of substance abuse on cognitive function is a significant barrier to sobriety if you don't have the right help. Our team can provide unique, individualized services that restore cognitive function and help train your brain to make better decisions for your long-term health and happiness. 

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