What is the Role of Endorphins in Addiction?
Addiction can be described as a disease in the brain, that relates to endorphins and the natural chemicals produced by the brain. Understanding the role of endorphins in the development of addiction will make it possible to start finding realistic treatment options.
What are Endorphins?
Endorphins are morphine-like chemicals produced by the body that help diminish pain while triggering positive feelings. They are also known as the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals, and are the body’s natural painkillers. The body naturally releases endorphins after experiencing pain or stress, to help reduce the physical sensation. Unfortunately, when an individual abuses drugs, that leads to the drugs hijacking the brain’s reward system. Consequently, the body releases more endorphins than required which leads to a feeling of euphoria.
Endorphins and Exercise
Endorphins are produced in the body as a response to intense physical exercise. They may play a role in the so called ‘runner’s high’, which is the feeling of euphoria felt by long distance runners after a prolonged session of running. The amount of endorphins released in the body differ from person to person, meaning that the same amount of exercise does not produce the same amount of endorphins for everyone. However, it remains unclear whether it is endorphins or some other brain or body process that is responsible for the mood boosting effects of exercise.
The Impact of Endorphins on Addiction
According to studies, altered neural processes in the brain impact addiction development. When an individual consistently abuses drugs or alcohol they can develop a tolerance to the substance. This leads to the individual takes more and more of the substance over time to achieve the same impact on the body. Since neural-transmitters in the brain impact the body’s reward system, the risk of addiction increases when the individual has become tolerant to the drug.
Substance abuse damages the messages and natural chemical systems in the brain. In some cases, the body rewards substance abuse by releasing more endorphins. When an individual builds up a tolerance for the substance, he or she develops cravings for the substance and starts seeking the drug or alcohol.
Addiction alters the brain and the natural neural-transmitters. As mentioned above, the amount of endorphins released in the body varies with the individual. Therefore treating substance abuse requires a personalized plan. An effective treatment plan includes several options, including counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy and alternative therapies. Using several approaches offers the flexibility to provide appropriate treatment for each individual.
At Blueprints for Recovery we can tailor make programs to help you or a loved one with substance abuse. Our highly trained staff can support you or your loved one to begin your journey of recovery and healing.