Addiction impacts the brain in many ways including psychologically. The chronic nature of addiction compels people to see drugs, use the drugs and continue this cycle regardless of the circumstances. Treatment options are useful for people with addiction in treating both the brain and body. Learn more about the brain science of addiction and how it is impacted.

How Brain Responds to Drugs

Once a person is addicted to drugs, smaller and smaller releases of dopamine are seen within the brain over time. The reward center part of the brain is less receptive to pleasure and enjoyment, both from drugs, as well as common sources such as recreational activities. More drugs are required to function at a baseline level once the brain is introduced to them and it becomes harder to function without the use of drugs.

Behavioral Changes

Brain imaging studies from people who are addicted to drugs indicate physical, measurable changes to the brain areas which impact judgment, decision making, learning, memory, and behavioral control. Scientists are beginning to learn how these changes alter the way the brain works and may explain compulsive, destructive tendencies while addicted. Grades might slip at school or a previously outgoing person may stop interacting with friends, stealing and lying to cover up for addiction. Behavioral changes are directly linked to the use of drugs. Cravings can take over which are painful, constant and distracting. Given how intense withdrawal symptoms are, the body wants to avoid this at all costs.

Three Main Factors

The first time a person tries alcohol or drugs, a switch goes off in the brain. The brain is essentially hijacked and anyone who tries a substance runs the risk of becoming addicted. The majority of Americans are at risk of developing addiction including young adults. Three main factors have been identified as a risk for addiction:


  • Genetics: a large likelihood of developing addiction comes from genetics or family history.
  • Environment: growing up in an environment with older adults who use drugs or engage in criminal behavior is a risk factor for addiction. Protective factors include a stable home environment and supportive school which can reduce the risk.
  • Development: addiction can develop at any age but research shows the earlier in life a person tries drugs, the more likely the person is to develop addiction. Brains are finished developing in the mid-20s so introducing drugs to the brain can greatly impact growth.


To understand addiction, families must focus on the impact it has on the brain and body. With addiction continuing to take hold of people’s lives, it can be helpful to know how the brain is connected to addiction and that therapeutic support, detox and treatment can be vitally important to helping a loved one be released from addiction.


Cypress Lake Recovery believes the brain and body are connected in addiction but can also be supported to move forward in recovery. Contact us to find out how we can help you navigate our excellent programs, resources and treatment options to support your recovery. Call us today at 1-409-331-2204.