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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Your Brain on Drugs

I was reading an article in Neuropsychobiology today (yes, I know, just a little light reading). The article was discussing the effects of drug and alcohol abuse on the brain. The research had several interesting findings. One observation was that there was a volume reduction of the brain with alcohol abuse. In other words, drinking may make your dumber (probably something most of us already knew).
The good news is that the article went on to say that with abstinence you can have volume restoration.  So in other words, with recovery you can get your brains back!  I remember when I was a new in recovery.  The old-timers would quip that it took about two years to get your brains out of hock.  So that’s what they must have been talking about.

The article also talked about MDMA (ecstasy) user’s brain changes.  It stated that there was a “reduction in cortical grey matter in multiple brain regions, which may translate into white matter abnormities characterized by “pruning” of the serotoninergic neurons.”  This means when you use ecstasy you damage or prune back the neurons which make serotonin, a hormone associated with happiness.  Because of this you will probably feel depressed when you stop using ecstasy and it may take some time for your brain to recover. They found similar alterations in the brain of cocaine users.  

The difference is that with coke use you have neurotoxicity to dopamine neurons.  Dopamine is a hormone associated with pleasure.  Just like serotonin a loss of this hormone can make you feel depressed.  And, because the neurons are damaged, it can take some time for you to feel naturally happy again.

So what does this all have to do with relationships?  Many people have asked me about getting into a relationship early in recovery.  This article shows that while using our brain is physically and chemically changed, and that restoration does occur with recovery and abstinence, but it takes time.  

Therefore, that is why it is so strongly recommended to stay out of a relationship early in recovery.  It gives you time to get back to your right mind. You can listen to Dawn Maslar-Ranish on the Holistic Lifestyles Radio every Friday At 2 PM EST go to www.holisticlifestylesradio.com to find out more information about the show.  

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