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Rewire the Brain: How Long Does It Take to Rewire the Brain From Addiction?

How Does Drug Rehab Rewire the Brain?

Drug rehab can literally rewire the brain as it recovers from addiction. Learn how the damage of drug abuse can be repaired in our blog.

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Addiction Recovery

Treatment Professional


October 20, 2023

Can you cure addiction?

Well....not really. Addiction, or at least the way most understand it, is a chronic disease similar to diabetes, asthma, or heart disease. It's less something you cure and more something people have to manage carefully throughout their lives.

However, that doesn't mean you can't do things to make addiction less severe and easier to manage.

Addictive drugs, over time, change the brain in fundamental ways. They interfere with the normal balance of chemicals and neurotransmitters, causing dependence and addiction.

But here's the good news – our brains are incredibly adaptable. We have the ability to literally rewire our brains through new experiences, behaviors, and thoughts.

So, while you may not be able to completely "cure" addiction, you can definitely rewire your brain to reduce its effects and potentially overcome it.

But how long does it take to rewire the brain from addiction?

The short answer is: it depends.

Rewire the Brain: What Is Addiction?

When someone develops an attachment to doing something or using a substance, they continue to do it frequently, even when it causes them trouble. This is known as addiction. Imagine, for instance, really loving video games or eating candy. It's like you're enjoying them so much that it's hard to quit, even if it affects your life or makes you feel horrible afterward. This resembles the core of addiction in specific ways.

Rewire the Brain: How Does Addiction Rewire the Brain?

As mentioned earlier, addictive substances can change the brain on a fundamental level. This happens in several ways:

Reward Pathway: Addictive drugs trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. With repeated use, the brain's reward pathway becomes desensitized and requires more of the drug to achieve the same effect.

Memory and Learning: Addiction can also impact the brain's memory and learning capabilities. The brain is wired to remember activities that bring pleasure, so it quickly learns to associate drug use with pleasure, creating a powerful connection.

Decision Making: Chronic drug use can affect the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for decision-making and impulse control. This can lead to impulsive and risky behaviors related to drug use.

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Rewire the Brain: Why Is Addiction So Dangerous?

People caught up in addiction frequently find it difficult to stop engaging in addictive behavior. They seem to have an intense and overwhelming need to continue doing it. Additionally, addiction typically leads to negative consequences, like getting sick, having trouble at school, or running into issues with the law, depending on what someone is addicted to.

A person dealing with addiction may feel as though they must do that thing to be okay or normal as if their brains have tricked them into believing they can't survive without it. Over time, people might require more of the substance to which they are addicted to feel the same.

Additionally, addiction often alters the way the brain functions by causing it to become focused entirely on one item, which can make it challenging to find joy in other aspects of life.

In essence, addiction may be seen as a strong force that can take control over a person's life. It's not just about enjoying something very much; the issue arises when that connection starts to cause complications, and the individual, despite their best efforts, is unable to let go. That's why we must understand addiction and seek help if you or someone you know is dealing with it.

Rewire the Brain: How Long Does It Take?

The time it takes to rewire the brain from addiction is a process that varies among individuals. Several factors influence the time it takes to rewire the brain:

Rewire the Brain: The Type of Addiction

The type and severity of addiction play a significant role, with more severe and long-term addictions often requiring more time for recovery.

Rewire the Brain: Individual Physiology

Personal differences in brain resilience and adaptability also contribute to the timeline.

Rewire the Brain: Addiction Treatment

Effective addiction treatment, therapy, and support programs can speed up the rewiring process.

Rewire the Brain: Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms and cravings, which can vary in intensity and duration, affect the timeline as well.

Proper management of these challenges is key to a smoother recovery journey.

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Rewire the Brain: Can Rewiring the Brain Be Sped Up?

Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management support brain healing. Avoiding triggers and staying away from addiction-related situations or people can help prevent relapse and facilitate rewiring.

Persistence in recovery is vital. While some improvements may become evident within weeks or months, achieving lasting change often takes years of commitment to a healthy, addiction-free lifestyle.

The brain's healing and rewiring process is gradual and continuous, making ongoing recovery efforts vital.

Rewire the Brain: What Are Some Signs of Addiction?

Signs of addiction are like red flags that show when someone is in the grip of a problem with something they do or use, like video games, drugs, or even their phone. These symptoms of addiction can include:

Craving the Substance

This is like when you want something, but in the case of addiction, it's much stronger. It's like a constant itch in your brain that tells you to do the addictive thing, even if you know it's not good for you. For example, someone addicted to their phone might feel like they have to check it every few minutes.

Loss of Control Around the Substance

Imagine you have a favorite snack, like cookies. You decide you're only going to eat a few, but then you end up eating the whole bag even though you didn't plan to. That's a bit like what happens with addiction. People might say, "I'll just do it a little bit," but they can't stop, even if they want to.

Neglecting Responsibilities

Have you ever been so into a video game that you forget to do your homework or chores? Well, imagine if that happened a lot, and it started causing problems at school, work, or home. That's one of the signs of addiction—when the addictive thing gets in the way of important stuff.

Problems in Relationships

Addiction can make people more interested in their addictive things than in spending time with friends and family. They might get into arguments or lose friends because they're always busy with their addiction.

Changes in Behavior

Sometimes, people with addiction start acting differently. They might become secretive because they don't want others to know about their addiction. They could become moody, and sometimes, they might not tell the truth to hide what they're doing.


Think of tolerance as getting used to something. Let's say you love spicy food, but over time, you need even spicier food to get the same kick. It's a bit like that with addiction. People might need more and more of the addictive thing to feel the same way they used to.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Imagine suddenly stopping something you enjoy, like playing your favorite sport. Your body might feel strange, right? It's the same with addiction, but it can be much more intense. When people with addiction try to quit, they can feel anxious, angry, and sometimes even physically sick.

Loss of Interest

Addiction can take over a person's life so much that they stop enjoying other things they used to love. If someone is addicted to video games, they might not want to hang out with friends or play other games because the addiction becomes their main focus.

Continuing to Use Substances Despite Harm

This is when someone knows that what they're doing is causing harm, but they can't stop. It's like knowing that overeating candy makes you sick, but you keep doing it anyway.

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Rewire the Brain: What Causes Addiction?

The root causes of addiction are complex and can't be attributed to a single factor. Let's examine the primary causes of addiction:


Some people have a genetic predisposition to addiction, just as how your parents may have influenced your height or eye color. Because addiction runs in their family, it suggests they have a larger probability of developing it if they try an addictive drug or activity.

Brain Chemistry

Dopamine is a feel-good hormone that is released by your brain's reward system whenever you do an enjoyable task, such as eating the food that you like. When a person becomes dependent on a substance or a behavior, their brains begin to release large amounts of dopamine. They get more motivated to do it as a result.

Environmental Elements

Living or growing up in a particular place can sometimes have a significant impact. You could be more likely to try drugs or addictive habits if you live around people who use them. Addiction risk can also be increased by stressful or traumatic experiences.

Mental Health 

Some people with mental health issues, like depression or anxiety, might turn to addictive substances or behaviors to cope with their feelings. As people seek comfort from their emotional pain and suffering, this might result in addiction.

Peer Pressure

Having anything forced upon you by friends or peers might result in experimentation and, in some situations, addiction. To fit in or feel accepted, some people start taking drugs or participating in risky acts.

Early Awareness

Early onset of addictive behaviors or substances might raise the chance of addiction. This is so because, throughout adolescence, the brain is still growing and more susceptible to the impacts of addictive substances.


Access to addictive drugs or actions may increase the likelihood that someone may become addicted. For instance, the risk of abuse and addiction may rise if prescription drugs are easily accessible at home.

Lack of Education

Addiction can also be facilitated by a lack of awareness of the dangers connected to particular drugs or activities. Education about the possible effects of addiction can be a protective factor.

Rewire the Brain: What Are Various Types of Addiction?

Addiction comes in various forms, each characterized by an intense and often unhealthy attachment to a particular substance or behavior. Common types of addiction include:

Substance Addiction

This includes addictions to substances like drugs, e.g., opioids, cocaine, or marijuana, and alcohol. People with substance addiction often experience physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit.

Behavioral Addiction

Unlike substance addiction, behavioral addiction doesn't involve a substance but rather a behavior. Examples include gambling, gaming, shopping, or eating disorders like binge eating. These behaviors can become compulsive and harmful, affecting a person's life in significant ways.

Internet and Social Media Addiction

Excessive use of the internet, social media, or online gaming can lead to addiction, impacting relationships, work, and mental health.

Sexual Addiction

This involves compulsive sexual behavior and can harm personal relationships and overall well-being.


Some individuals become addicted to work, which can result in burnout and negatively affect personal lives.

Food Addiction

Similar to substance addiction, this type relates to compulsive overeating or an unhealthy relationship with food, leading to obesity and health issues.

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What’s the Difference Between Addiction and Misuse?

"Addiction" and "misuse" represent distinct levels of problematic substance or behavior engagement. "Addiction" denotes a severe and compulsive dependence, often accompanied by withdrawal symptoms and detrimental consequences. It substantially impairs daily life.

In contrast, "misuse" signifies a less severe pattern involving substance or behavior use against recommended guidelines, with potential negative outcomes. Misuse lacks compulsive urge, loss of control, and withdrawal symptoms associated with addiction.

Recognizing this distinction helps in early intervention and tailored support.

Rewire the Brain: How Addiction Treatment Helps

Addiction treatment is an extensive process intended to help people escape the grip of addiction and regain control over their lives. It includes an assessment if needed, detoxification, behavioral therapy (such as CBT), medication-assisted treatment (for certain addictions), support groups, counseling, lifestyle changes, and aftercare.

Treatment addresses the physical, psychological, and social aspects of addiction and is tailored to individual requirements. It promotes recovery, offers people coping mechanisms, and creates the groundwork for a better, addiction-free life, frequently with a support system to sustain long-term recovery.

Rewire the Brain: The Edge Treatment Center Will Help You Rewire Your Brain and Build a New Life

At The Edge Treatment Center, we understand the complexity of addiction and its hold on individuals. We believe that true healing and recovery require a holistic approach that addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction.

Our program focuses on rewiring the brain through evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). These therapies help individuals identify and change harmful thought patterns, develop coping skills, and process traumatic experiences that may have contributed to their addiction.

But rewiring the brain is not just about therapy – it also involves making positive changes in one's lifestyle. Our program includes activities such as yoga, mindfulness practices, and physical exercise that promote healing and balance in the brain.

The Edge Treatment Center is committed to providing personalized and comprehensive care that supports individuals in their journey toward rewiring their brains and building a new life free from addiction. Our goal is for our clients to not only overcome their addiction but also thrive in all aspects of their lives.

So if you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, don't wait any longer. Reach out today!

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If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, there is hope. Our team can guide you on your journey to recovery. Call us today.