Learn About Neuroadaptation and Addiction

Neuroadaptation refers to a process where the body compensates for a chemical’s presence in the body in order to function normally. For people who use drugs or alcohol, this neuroadaptation can lead to tolerance and dependence over time. Learn more about how neuroadaptation works and how to move towards recovery.


As a person continues using drugs or drinking alcohol more regularly, the body becomes used to it in the body. The body responds to it as a normal way of being and adapts accordingly. When neuroadaptation takes place, a person will develop a tolerance and find they need more of the substance to achieve a desired outcome. Withdrawal can occur when the substance is removed and is not present in the body any longer. This is the body’s way of trying to adapt, as well as the brain, to changes as it seeks to function more normally.

Reversing Neuroadaptation

Withdrawal symptoms occur when neuroadaptation is being reversed. The symptoms of withdrawal may be unpleasant or even fatal. Physically a person will feel uncomfortable but there is also great psychological distress that may occur. Fear of these effects can discourage people from trying to recover from addiction.

Physical symptoms may include:

  • Body shakes
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle aches
  • Seizures
  • Insomnia

It really depends on what type of substance(s) the person used and how long the person was using them for as to how the body adjusts in withdrawal. These symptoms can last for a few hours to a few days, maybe longer.  Delirium tremens is a severe form of withdrawal which is usually associated with chronic alcohol or benzodiazepine use. Medical support is generally needed to help an individual with these symptoms as it can become fatal.

Role of Dopamine

Dopamine is the chemical in the brain responsible for the brain’s reward system. Brain processes such as pleasure, cognition, motivation, learning, movement, memory, and more may be affected by the number of dopamine receptors as well as the ability to signal a response. Any changes in dopamine levels can increase or reduce the number of receptors. Drugs like cocaine and amphetamine may impact dopamine function either through stimulation or blocking of dopamine receptors. Changing the flow of dopamine can produce pleasurable effects. Repeated use of drugs or alcohol can disrupt the reuptake system, or the natural recycling of dopamine. It is important to seek help to detox properly from drugs or alcohol to help the body get back into proper balance and support a long-term recovery.

Sound Recovery is here to help you design a recovery program that will fit your needs and help you stay clean and sober. If you are struggling with addiction, let us help. Call us at 561-277-3088 to get started.

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