Addiction Recovery - Sobriety

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

How to Rewire the Brain After Addiction

How long does it take to rewire the brain after addiction? Repairing the damage addiction cause takes time, but it's possible. Learn more in our blog.

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Addiction Recovery


November 18, 2023

So, how long is the road back?

It's a question many ask in recovery: How long will it take to overcome addiction and rewire the brain?

The truth is, there is no set timeline for rewiring the brain from addiction. Every individual's journey is unique and will depend on a variety of factors such as the type and severity of addiction, the person's overall health and well-being, their support system, and their commitment to recovery.

However, scientific research has shown that the brain is incredibly resilient and can rewire itself at any age. This process, known as neuroplasticity, refers to the brain's ability to form new neural connections and adapt to changes in its environment.

In terms of addiction, rewiring the brain involves breaking the cycle of harmful behaviors and creating new pathways for healthy thoughts and actions. This process can take time, as the brain has to unlearn old patterns and establish new ones.

Rewire the Brain: What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a complicated and sometimes misunderstood condition that affects individuals from all walks of life. It refers to an obsessive and persistent substance use habit or participation in specific actions, regardless of the adverse effects. Substance addiction usually involves drugs such as opioids, cocaine, or alcohol.

However, addiction can also emerge in behavioral patterns such as gambling, gaming, or excessive internet or social media usage.

Rewire the Brain: The Impact of Addiction

Addiction can have a significant impact on the lives of individuals. It often interrupts personal relationships, affects academic or professional successes, and causes financial issues. Addiction's serious cravings and compulsions can make it challenging to handle urges, resulting in a loss of self-control and negatively impacting overall health.

Rewire the Brain: The Brain's Reward System

One of the most significant aspects of addiction is its impact on the brain's reward system. When we participate in pleasurable activities, the brain's natural reward system produces a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine produces pleasurable experiences and encourages the urge to repeat such actions.

Furthermore, drugs or behaviors promote excessive dopamine release, overwhelming the brain with intense pleasure.

Rewire the Brain: Development of Tolerance

Tolerance can develop over time due to repeated exposure to addictive drugs or behaviors. Tolerance occurs when the brain becomes less sensitive to the effects of a substance or habit, necessitating higher doses to get the same level of pleasure. Individuals' tolerance causes them to increase their consumption or engagement, continuing the addictive cycle.

Rewire the Brain: Withdrawal Symptoms

The development of withdrawal symptoms is another key feature of addiction. Individuals who are physically or mentally dependent on a substance or habit may suffer a variety of uncomfortable and sometimes severe withdrawal symptoms when they abruptly quit or lessen their use. These symptoms can include anxiety, irritability, nausea, insomnia, and strong cravings, often driving individuals to continue using or engaging in addictive behavior.

Rewire the Brain: Understanding the Complexity of Addiction

Addiction is more than just a lack of willpower or moral character. It is a complicated condition that is influenced by several circumstances. Addiction can be caused by genetic predispositions, environmental effects, mental health conditions, and traumatic experiences in the past.

Recognizing these complexities helps remove the stigma connected with addiction. It promotes a more compassionate and encouraging approach toward people struggling with addiction.

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

Addiction is a complicated subject that can seriously affect a person's life. When someone becomes addicted to substances of any kind or participates in addictive behaviors, it dramatically affects their brain. The brain has an incredible ability to change & adapt. This is known as neuroplasticity. This suggests that it is possible to retrain the brain and overcome addiction with time and effort.

The time it takes to rewire the brain after addiction differs from person to person. It is determined by several circumstances. This includes the nature & intensity of the addiction and the individual's commitment to change. Also, the help & resources available to them. While there is no set time, remember that recovery is a journey that requires time and effort.

Rewire the Brain: Drug Detox

The brain undergoes detoxification during the early phases of recovery. This is the process through which the body rids itself of addictive substances or habits. Depending on the drug & the individual's overall health, drug detox might take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

The brain begins to mend and restore its neuronal connections after detoxification. This is where the rewiring process takes place. The brain creates new pathways and connections that promote healthy ideas, actions, and decisions. Depending on the individual & the depth of the addiction, the rewiring process might take several months to years.

It takes more than just refraining from addictive substances or behaviors to rewire the brain, however.

Rewire the Brain: Living in Recovery

Recovery involves making positive adjustments in numerous aspects of one's life. Such as adopting healthy habits and participating in therapy or counseling. Also, developing a strong support network and discovering new methods to cope with stress or triggers that may lead to relapse.

Furthermore, understand that addiction treatment is a continuous process. Maintain a cautious and proactive approach to preventing recurrence even after the brain has been rewired. This can involve continuing counseling, attending support group meetings, and practicing healthy coping mechanisms.

Rewire the Brain: Is Addiction A Disease?

Yes, addiction is considered a disease. Addiction is defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) as a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuits. It is defined by an inability to consistently abstain from using substances or engaging in particular activities despite negative effects.

Addiction, like other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, & behavioral factors. It changes the reward system, decision-making processes, and self-control by affecting the structure & functioning of the brain.

The chronic nature of addiction as a disease is an important factor. It has a relapsing and remitting pattern. This implies that people may go through phases of abstention and recovery. However, individuals may experience relapses in which they revert to substance use or engage in addictive behaviors. 

Recognizing addiction as a disease has broad implications. It helps eliminate the stigma associated with addiction. It promotes a more sympathetic and understanding attitude toward persons suffering from addiction. When addiction is viewed as a disease, it highlights the importance of evidence-based treatments, professional help, and continuing support to manage and overcome the condition.

There are alternate viewpoints that emphasize psychological and social issues; therefore, not everyone may agree on the disease model of addiction. However, the disease model is widely accepted in the medical and scientific professions. It serves as the foundation for most of today's knowledge & treatment of addiction.

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Rewire the Brain: What Are the Signs of Addiction?

Recognizing the signs of addiction is essential in determining whether someone is suffering from a substance or behavioral dependency.

The following are some common signs that can indicate the presence of an addiction.

Strong Cravings and Obsession

An individual may have powerful and persistent desires for a substance or activity, making it difficult to focus on anything else.

Loss of Control

Inability to control or limit the quantity or frequency of substance use or participation in addictive behavior, despite a desire to reduce or stop.

Increased Tolerance

Higher dosages of a substance or more frequent engagement in the behavior are required to get the desired effect or degree of pleasure previously obtained with smaller amounts.

Withdrawal Symptoms

When a substance or habit is reduced or discontinued, withdrawal symptoms such as irritation, restlessness, nervousness, depression, nausea, sweating, or sleeplessness can arise.

Neglecting Responsibilities

Prioritizing substance use or addictive behavior above important responsibilities like work, school, or family commitments has negative effects.

Loss of Interest

A dramatic drop in interest or engagement in previously enjoyed activities, hobbies, or social contacts that were formerly enjoyable.

Continued Use Despite Negative Consequences

Continuing with substance use or addictive behavior despite experiencing negative effects on physical health, mental health, relationships, or financial stability.

Changes in Appearance or Physical Health

Physical deterioration, unexplained weight loss or gain, poor hygiene, or noticeable changes in overall health.

Rewire the Brain: Strategies for Long-Term Recovery and Brain Health

Addiction recovery is an ongoing process that demands consistent effort and devotion. Incorporate multiple strategies into your everyday life to help with long-term recovery and brain health. Following are some effective approaches.

Seek Professional Help

Working with addiction specialists, therapists, or counselors can give invaluable assistance and support during recovery. These specialists can help develop customized treatment programs and give methods for managing cravings, coping with triggers, and addressing underlying issues contributing to addiction.

Build a Supportive Network

Surround yourself with a strong network of family, friends, and others who understand and support your recovery process. Consider joining a support group or participating in a Twelve-Step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Connecting with individuals who have had similar situations can provide useful insights and a sense of belonging.

Adopt Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle benefits both physical & mental health. Regular exercise causes the production of endorphins. These can boost mood and reduce stress. Prioritize healthy eating, enough sleep, and stress-reduction strategies such as meditation or deep breathing exercises.

Identify and Manage Triggers

Recognize the people, places, or situations that can trigger cravings or a relapse. When triggers occur, develop coping mechanisms such as participating in alternate activities, using healthy stress-management techniques, or contacting a support system.

Practice Mindfulness and Self-Care

Mindfulness techniques like meditation or yoga can help promote self-awareness, reduce stress, and improve overall health. Participate in things that provide you joy and relaxation, such as hobbies, artistic outlets, or time spent in nature. Long-term recovery requires taking care of themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Address Co-occurring Mental Health Issues

Many addicts also have co-occurring mental health conditions. These are such as anxiety, depression, or trauma-related conditions. Proper treatment and counseling for these challenges are vital for complete healing and brain health management.

Stay Committed to Continued Learning

Learn about addiction, relapse prevention, and the effects of drugs & alcohol on the brain. Stay educated & engaged with the recovery community by attending programs, seminars, or support group meetings. Continued learning helps to reinforce motivation and provides tools for managing possible challenges.

Avoid Isolation and High-Risk Environments

Limit your exposure to situations or people that can cause a relapse. Avoid situations where there are substances present or where there is a significant chance of engaging in addictive behaviors. Instead, concentrate on making new, positive social connections and participating in activities to help you achieve your recovery objectives.

The Edge Treatment Center Will Help You Rewire Your Brain From Addiction

At The Edge Treatment Center, we understand that rewiring the brain from addiction is not a one-size-fits-all process. Our team of experienced professionals utilizes evidence-based treatments and personalized care to address the underlying causes of addiction and create a customized recovery plan for each individual.

Through various therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness practices, and trauma-informed care, we work to help our clients develop new coping mechanisms and positive habits that support their recovery journey. We also provide resources and support for rebuilding relationships, finding purpose and meaning in life, and creating a healthy lifestyle.

Acknowledging the significance of maintaining connections, The Edge Treatment Center is device-friendly, enabling clients to remain in touch with their support networks. Family visits and counseling sessions are actively encouraged by us to strengthen the healing process. With a team of licensed clinicians, we ensure personalized care by employing evidence-based treatments. 

Prioritizing client safety, 24/7 access to medical staff is readily available. The comprehensive approach adopted by The Edge Treatment Center encompasses the treatment of co-occurring mental health disorders. Above all, our unwavering dedication lies in supporting individuals on their journey to long-term recovery and empowering them to lead a satisfying life free from addiction.

There’s always hope. We’ll help you find your way back to a life worth living. Reach out to The Edge Treatment Center 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.