When Surroundings End Up Enabling Addiction

We know that addiction affects the reward process of the brain. The reward process is a way for our brains to encourage our bodies to behave in a way that manages health and survival. It does so by releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter that reacts to neurons in the brain that results in sensations of pleasure. So, for example, when we exercise, our bodies release dopamine, resulting in what many may refer to as a “runner’s high”. However, dopamine doesn’t just work as a way to encourage specific behaviors. It also plays a role in how our brains learn and even create new memories. So, as a result, the brain can work to anticipate a behavior that will result in the release of dopamine. This tells us that what happens around us can play a crucial part in how drug use affects the reward process of the brain. And, how surroundings can play a part in enabling addiction and its development.

When Memory is Affected by Drug Use

Scientific studies have shown us that environmental signals can stimulate specific areas of the brain associated with addiction. Specifically, areas of the brain that are responsible for the processing of emotions. As a result, certain stimuli can bring about emotional responses. For example, when a person dependent upon nicotine catches a scent from a lit cigarette, they may experience a craving to smoke.

Adapting to Environmental Factors in Recovery 

Because environmental cues can motivate drug misuse for those living with substance use disorder, it’s important to make necessary changes to the environment during recovery. Since environmental factors are tied to emotional responses, they can bring about cravings for those in recovery. And, these cravings can be dangerous as they can and do lead to relapse. So, to prevent a relapse, it’s best to be aware of the environmental factors that can stimulate cravings to avoid them. Some environmental cues which can turn into relapse triggers may include:

People: One of the most challenging environmental relapse triggers people in recovery have to deal with is people. Before treatment, people in recovery hung out with others who used or enabled use. But, once treatment is over, it’s important to be wary of who you hang around. This is due to the fact that simply being around individuals whom you’ve developed memories that relate to dopamine release can bring about intense cravings. While it’s not easy, it’s best to try to surround yourself with new people who support and encourage sobriety.

Places: If you’re recovering,, going to a bar can be an environmental cue that strikes up emotion. For other individuals in recovery, there may be other places to stimulate emotional response. Whether it’s a ballpark, the movies, or back alleyways, it’s always best to determine which places that may trigger cravings for you. That way, you can learn to avoid these environments. And, develop coping mechanisms to prevent relapse if you’re ever to be in those types of environments unintentionally.

Stress: Many people first start using drugs or alcohol to ease the symptoms of stress. But, after long-term use, stress can prompt emotional responses like cravings due to dopamine and the reward process. So, if you know that you have an emotional response like craving drugs or alcohol due to stress, it’s important to not only understand how to manage stress but also manage the emotional response as a result of the stress itself.

Lotus Healing offers outpatient alcohol treatment for folks who want to stop drinking and live more healthy lives with greater mental well-being. Learn about our outpatient services and providers like Adam Freilich, LADC, right from our website.

 

Dr. Dixie Brown is a PhD level Therapist, Integrative Medicine Practitioner, and Nutritionist with 15 years of experience working in Mental Health, specifically with trauma, eating disorders, and substance use.

Dixie Brown

Author

Trauma

Trauma Treatment: Empowering Healthcare Professionals to Help Patients Heal and Move Forward

FacebookTweetLinkedInPin As healthcare professionals and providers, we understand that trauma can have a profound impact on a person’s life. Post…

Wellness

Mindfulness Practices to Stay in the Present Moment

FacebookTweetLinkedInPin Being present allows a person to stay in the here and now rather than focusing and spending energy on…

Testimonials

What People Say About Us

Lotus Healing helps substance use and mental health providers, foundations, organizations and healthcare companies address urgent healthcare challenges that impact their ability to provide high quality healthcare to vulnerable populations by prioritizing organizational leadership, structure, education and research and commitment to improved organizational wellbeing.

Lotus Healing helps substance use and mental health providers, foundations, organizations and healthcare companies address urgent healthcare challenges that impact their ability to provide high quality healthcare to vulnerable populations by prioritizing organizational leadership, structure, education and research and commitment to improved organizational wellbeing.

Lotus Healing helps substance use and mental health providers, foundations, organizations and healthcare companies address urgent healthcare challenges that impact their ability to provide high quality healthcare to vulnerable populations by prioritizing organizational leadership, structure, education and research and commitment to improved organizational wellbeing.

Lotus Healing helps substance use and mental health providers, foundations, organizations and healthcare companies address urgent healthcare challenges that impact their ability to provide high quality healthcare to vulnerable populations by prioritizing organizational leadership, structure, education and research and commitment to improved organizational wellbeing.

Lotus Healing helps substance use and mental health providers, foundations, organizations and healthcare companies address urgent healthcare challenges that impact their ability to provide high quality healthcare to vulnerable populations by prioritizing organizational leadership, structure, education and research and commitment to improved organizational wellbeing.