Drugs and alcohol change the messages in the brain and the brain’s ability to send messages unfettered and unaltered. That broadly defines the brain mechanics of addiction. The brain’s neuroplasticity can also determine the brain’s ability to overcome these damaged pathways that lead to drug and alcohol seeking behaviors and the consequences associated with such behaviors.
Decades have passed since scientists first believed that these crucial messaging centers were permanently developed in early childhood. Researchers had also concluded that once the brain was damaged no new connections, or neuro pathways could be made. Scientists now know that due to neuroplasticity, the human brain can adapt to compensate for the loss of a function and create new message pathways to change behavior and thinking.
Today, the brain has been closely studied, graphed, photographed, and messages within the brain measured. The good news is that the brain has tremendous ability to create new message pathways because of the brain’s neuroplasticity. While the old drug/alcohol related pathways will always remain, researchers now understand that new pathways can be developed and made strong. That may not be a simple task, but it is doable and the new wave of user friendly technology has moved this process along.
“The Brain Never Stops Changing and Adjusting”
That statement, written on the Washington University’s Neuroscience for Kids website provides great hope for those recovering from addiction. The brain can rewire itself to handle functional losses, such as those temporarily brought on by drug and alcohol addiction or the more permanent ones associated with addiction. That means we can aggressively pursue new behaviors and that they can become strong, reliable habits.
“Conditions in our environment, such as social interactions, challenging experiences and even fresh air can play a crucial role in brain cell survival and the formation of connections. Just as the brain changes in response to environmental conditions, it can also change and rearrange in response to injury or disease.” (http://web.stanford.edu/group/hopes/cgi-bin/wordpress/2010/06/neuroplasticity/) Using that thought process has led to a whole new level of treatment–one that includes the use of technology.
New Technology Helps Develop New Brain Connections
New brain connections are made strong through repetition, just like lifting a weight.
We know that learning occurs utilizing multiple sensory stimulations. The brain does not rely upon one set of synapses. Thus by using a variety of experiences and techniques a person can quicken the development of new thought patterns, behavioral choices, and skills to deal with cravings, negative thinking, and poor decision-making.
Attacking addiction at this level provides the client with increased success that stimulates new pleasure pathways. Those help build self-esteem, impulse control, improved life skills, improved relationships, and improved communication skills. Indeed, brain research on learning and neuroplasticity is now considered by many to be the appropriate direction for dealing with a range of problems. Neuroscientists have been working with altering behavior (mental and emotional well-being) of schizophrenics, children with ADD and ADHD, as well as measuring brain function improvements in older adults who receive training using brain games.
This past February, (2/18/14) an article in Popular Mechanics described the work of Aaron Seitz of the UC Riverside, who created a publicly available app to improve eyesight. It was specially designed and tested on baseball players. Nineteen players used the app for 30 25-minute intervals. All players’ vision improved dramatically. Seven players improved their vision beyond the standard 20/20 to 20/7.5. These players saw at 20 feet what people with normal sight could only see at 7.5 feet.
That is just one example of the types of applications now available that can change lives. Recovery Passport has multilevel applications that interface with best addiction treatment practices in all phases of treatment. Some applications are used during the primary phase of treatment; others are best suited for aftercare.
Some of our applications are unique to Recovery Passport’s design and proprietary. We are at the cutting edge of utilizing technology to strengthen addiction treatment outcomes and build lasting recoveries for clients.