Over time substance abuse negatively impacts brain functioning. Once a substance abuser is no longer in active addiction the brain begins to repair itself by creating more neurons. Neurons are nerve cells and similar to other cells except for one difference. The difference being that neurons transmit information throughout our bodies.
Neurons transmit information in two different ways, chemically and electrically. There are different types of neurons which have varying tasks. The sensory neurons transmit information from sensory receptors throughout the body to the brain. Motor neurons carry information from the brain to our muscles. Interneurons carry information from one neuron to another.
These neurons are made-up of dendrites, cell body and axons. Interestingly, neurons come in different shapes and sizes. Some neurons are made-up of more dendrites and can take in more information. Other neurons have larger or shorter axons. Information is transmitted from dendrites to neurons and from one to another using chemicals called neurotransmitters. There are several types of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
Eventually an individual in active addiction increases the level of dopamine which furthers the addiction. The substance abuse addiction increases the glutamine which speeds up communication between neurons to the point that an excitement occurs in the brain. The GABA levels would normally keep the glutamine in check and not allow for the speed up in communication.
As addiction progresses, the GABA levels are decreased and the glutamine is not held in check. This excitement in the brain brings about cravings in the individual. If these cravings are not met withdrawal then begins. There are several ways to manage addiction withdrawal symptoms. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation are an option. Meeting with your primary care physician is always a good idea for medication options if warranted. Make sure to keep a list of symptoms and be open and honest about the substance abuse behaviors so that the physician can have adequate information to provide appropriate treatment.
Exercise is also a great way to get physically fit and work off extra energy. Jogging, hiking, walking, lifting weights, and swimming are but a few great ways to stay active. These are also beneficial coping skills which can assist in reducing a number of symptoms such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
Attendance at meetings such as AA, NA, and CA can be a great way to reduce stress by surrounding yourself in the recovery community. Have you spoken to your sponsor lately? Do you have a sponsor? Sponsors exist to help others struggling with addiction. If you do not have a sponsor it is important you work on getting one as soon as possible.