These chemical changes affect your ability to think clearly, use good judgment, control your behavior and function regularly without alcohol or drugs. A substance-use disorder can lead to serious health complications and can destroy your emotional and financial well-being, your career and your relationships with friends and family.
Addiction — including alcoholism and chemical dependency — is a disease, but it's treatable with proper care and support.
How Alcohol and Drugs Affect Your Brain
When you consume alcohol or drugs, your brain is flooded with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that affects movement, emotions and your ability to experience pleasure and pain. When your brain is overloaded by substances, it causes a feeling of intense excitement or happiness — a feeling that substance users try to recreate through continued use.
Eventually, your brain adjusts by producing less dopamine or reducing the number of receptors that receive or transmit nerve signals, which diminishes your ability to feel everyday pleasures. That’s why people who use drugs or alcohol can feel depressed when they’re sober. They drink or take drugs to get their dopamine levels back to normal.
Not everyone who drinks alcohol or uses drugs is an addict. Addiction occurs when the substance becomes so crucial that you’re willing to risk important areas of your life — your relationships, career or financial status. Addiction causes changes to your mind and body that weaken your ability to resist alcohol or drugs.
Substance-use Disorder Signs
There are a number of factors that can lead to a substance-use disorder, from lack of self-esteem, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions to genetics, environmental pressures and other influences.
If you’re concerned about your reliance on alcohol or drugs — or someone close to you is showing symptoms — it’s important to seek help before it impacts mental and physical well-being. Warning signs include:
- Drinking or using drugs on a regular basis.
- Decline in performance, motivation or attendance at work or school, and complaints from co-workers, supervisors and teachers.
- Loss of interest in favorite activities and withdrawal from friends and family.
- Legal problems, such as getting arrested for fights, disorderly conduct, domestic disputes or driving under the influence.
- Getting into dangerous situations, such as mixing alcohol and prescription medications, sexual promiscuity or driving under the influence.
- Lying about the amount or frequency of drug or alcohol use.
- Changes in personality, attitude or mood, or engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors.
- Showing symptoms of depression or expressing hopelessness or suicidal thoughts.
The first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem and you need help.
At the Scrivner Center for Mental Health & Addiction Services, our health professionals specialize in helping people overcome addiction and recover from a substance-use disorder. Our Addiction Services and Dual-Diagnosis programs can help you learn to live without alcohol and drugs.
After an initial assessment with a member of our team, our addiction specialists develop a personalized treatment plan. Our team of experts provides individual, group and family therapy and uses a variety of therapeutic techniques to help you avoid destructive patterns and develop positive coping skills. Our support groups and ongoing assistance are designed to help you maintain sobriety and rebuild your life.