How Long to Rewire Brain from Addiction

How Long to Rewire Brain from Addiction

Years of substance abuse can significantly impact the brain, including both brain health and brain chemistry. Over time, chronic substance abuse causes the brain pathways to change, to become rewired. These alterations in the brain are a result of dependency and addiction. Learn how long it takes to rewire the brain from addiction once you are in recovery.

How Drugs and Alcohol Impact the Brain

Drugs and alcohol have a profound affect on the brain, disrupting brain structures and functions. Ongoing use of the addictive substance creates alterations in the neural pathways, or the connections between regions. As these new pathways become etched, a stimulus that triggers the desire for the substance instigates substance-seeking behaviors.

All of this addiction-induced rewiring of the brain starts with the effects of dopamine. When someone ingests a psychoactive substance, it causes a release of the feel-good brain chemical dopamine. The brain’s reward center, called the nucleus accumbens, registers the pleasurable sensations and reinforces continued substance use. This leads to compulsive substance-seeking behaviors, namely addiction.

Factors that Affect the Brain in Recovery

Although the damage sustained to the brain by addiction can be significant, the organ is able to regenerate with sustained abstinence. However, several factors may influence how long it takes for the brain to heal after addiction. These factors can slow down or prevent a complete brain recovery. They include:

  • The number of prior substance detoxifications
  • Whether the person is a smoker
  • If the person has a strong family prevalence of substance use disorders
  • The duration and severity of the addiction
  • Nutritional deficiencies due to a poor diet

The brain has an amazing ability to regenerate cell growth, brain volume, and cognitive functions. Because of this, much of the damage to the brain can be erased with sustained sobriety and time.

How the Brain Rewires in Recovery

When it comes to neural brain functions, you may wonder how long it takes to rewire the brain from addiction. This brain rewiring process is a necessary aspect of achieving success in recovery. The rewiring of the brain involves engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) where you learn new ways to respond to triggers. 

With a therapist’s guidance, you first identify the triggers or stressors that have led to the compulsive use of a substance. The therapist then teaches you ways to perceive, think about, and respond to the trigger. The CBT process lays the foundation for new brain pathways to form, thus rewiring the brain in recovery.

How Long Does it Take for the Brain to Recover from Addiction?

So then, how long to rewire the brain from addiction you ask? It takes time to retrain your brain to respond differently to cravings, stress, or other triggers. These new thought-behavior patterns must be practiced over and over in recovery to override the old ones.

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It may take months, or it may take years to rewire the brain after quitting the substance. There are factors that influence the speed at which your brain will be rewired in recovery. These include:

  • The substance of abuse. Some substances have a more pronounced impact on the brain during active addiction. Some examples are the stimulants meth and cocaine.
  • How many substances involved. If the person is addicted to more than one substance it complicates the timeline somewhat.
  • Duration of addiction. The length of time that the addiction has been present can impact the pace of the brain rewiring process.
  • Substance consumption. The level of drug or alcohol consumption can affect how love to rewire the brain after addiction.
  • Co-occurring mental health issues. If the person has a coexisting mental health disorder, it can affect the brain’s recovery process.
  • Individual traits. Personality traits, such as resilience and determination versus passivity, can impact the rewiring timeline.

Addiction Treatment to Begin the Brain Rewiring Process

There is only one way to rewire the brain after addiction, and that is by re-programming your thought and behavior patterns. Developing new healthy habits is at the heart of the addiction treatment program.

Rehabilitation is the goal of a substance treatment program. The rehab process is multifold and includes:

  • Detox. The detox and withdrawal phase, the first step in addiction recovery, jumpstarts the brain rewiring process. The unpleasant withdrawal symptoms signal that the brain is already beginning to rewire itself as it adjusts to the absence of the substance. The longer you maintain abstinence, the more the brain becomes rewired.
  • Therapy. While in rehab you will engage in several types of psychotherapy. These include one-on-one sessions, group sessions, family sessions, and even couples sessions. The primary therapy used is CBT, but there are many evidence-based therapies used for addiction treatment.
  • 12-step. The 12-step program helps to facilitate a sustained recovery, which is essential for the brain to rewire itself.
  • Restoring wellness. Brain health is aided in recovery by sound nutrition, regular exercise, and holistic treatment methods.

Secure Your Recovery After Rehab

For the brain to continue the rewiring process that started in treatment, you must take certain actions to sustain sobriety. These are the steps you should take after you complete the rehab program and start to live a sober lifestyle. In other words, to “work your recovery.”

Aftercare should be planned right into your overall recovery planning, and must be followed through with. Here are some of the actions to take to avoid a relapse:

  1. Have a relapse prevention strategy. Know your triggers and assume you will encounter them. Devise a plan on how you will respond to the triggers.
  2. Consider sober living. Sometimes returning back home too soon after rehab is not a good idea. Sober living allows you time to adjust to a sober lifestyle in a substance-free and supportive home setting.
  3. Outpatient treatment. Stepping down to outpatient keeps you actively working your recovery while also providing the needed support.
  4. Peer support. Join a recovery group in your area, such as A.A., N.A., or SMART Recovery for added support.

If you are ready to break the ties with a substance and embark on recovery, reach out for support today.

Capo by the Sea Premier Comprehensive Addiction Treatment

Capo by the Sea provides the tools needed to rewire your brain in the recovery process. If you have any questions about how long to rewire the brain after addiction, please reach out at (800) 529-2114