How to Heal Your Brain from Substance Abuse

How to Heal Your Brain from Substance Abuse

Heal Brain Damage

Recovering from drug and alcohol addiction is an ongoing process. While you were actively using substances, you likely got used to feeling tired and groggy. But now that you are sober, you’re probably wondering when you will feel normal again. There are many factors that determine how quickly your brain heals, so it’s important to be patient. It took time for the damage to occur, and it will take time for the damage to reverse itself. 

What Factors Influence Your Brain’s Ability to Heal?

Each person is unique so there is no set time frame for when you will start to feel like yourself. But you can gain a more realistic perspective of your journey by considering these four factors: 

  • Length of Time. How long have you been using drugs and alcohol? If it has been many years as opposed to a few months, it will take your body longer to recover. The longer you’ve been an addict, the more damage has been done to your body. 
  • Type of Drugs. What substances did you abuse? All substances are addictive and can cause damage to the brain and body but in different ways. Also, it’s possible to suffer from post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which can last years after substance abuse.
  • Method of Detox. What type of detox did you do? Detoxing in a medically supervised drug rehab in Phoenix with access to medications and therapies will help you kick the habit easier. 
  • Amount of Drugs. The number of drugs you took also impacts how quickly your body will recover. If you were taking large amounts of drugs, particularly through snorting or injection, it will take longer for your brain to heal.

Effects of Long-Term Drug Use on the Brain

The brain is constantly changing. When you were using drugs, there were changes happening to the neurons in the reward sector. This is why you felt good when you used the drugs, as a surge of dopamine was released. These changes are felt in the body for a short time, but they stick around longer in the brain. 

Here are the three areas of the brain that are most affected by substance abuse: 

  • Brain Stem. The brain stem is responsible for controlling your heart rate, breathing, and sleeping. Drugs can make the brain stem unhealthy, negatively impacting your functioning. 
  • Cerebral Cortex. This part of your brain is responsible for problem-solving and decision-making. Drugs and alcohol can cause structural abnormalities in the cerebral cortex
  • Limbic System. The limbic system deals with emotion and memory. It’s an essential part of why people develop addictions. 

How Long Does it Take the Brain to Heal? 

The brain can start the healing process as soon as you enter outpatient treatment in Phoenix, but the rate at which it heals varies. Healing has to do with the drugs you took and the specific damage they did. While some changes in the brain may be more permanent, the brain does have the ability to heal itself.

For example, just one time using MDMA can lead to subtle changes in the brain such as cell damage and decreased blood flow in certain regions. Marijuana can kill brain cells and cause you to struggle with memory problems and concentration even when you’re not high. That said, researchers are finding that much of the brain can heal after 1-2 years of being sober. 

Of course, there are many ways to make the healing process more efficient. This has to do with the food you eat, how often you exercise, your sleeping habits, and your immune system. You will also do better in recovery if you attend therapy and group meetings because you will get to meet others who can help you through the hard parts of recovery. 

brain scan

What are the Best Ways to Heal the Brain? 

As you work toward healing the brain, here are some key things you’ll want to do. 

Eat Nutritious Food 

To regenerate new brain cells, you’ll need to eat a balanced diet that contains omega-3 fatty acids like fish, nuts and seeds, plant oils, and fortified foods. These foods have been shown to increase the production of new neurons. 

Brain cell regeneration may also be supported by flavonoids, resveratrol, and cumin which can be found in foods like blueberries, cocoa, red wine, and curry. Avoid saturated fats like butter, cheese, and bacon because they can cause obesity, cardiovascular disease, and brain damage. 

Exercise on a Regular Basis 

Exercise can also rejuvenate the brain, which is why it’s one of the best defenses we have against dementia and Alzheimer’s. Regular exercise encourages new brain cell growth, and it can improve memory, improve focus, and sharpen your mind. Some of the best exercises you can do for this purpose include running, swimming, yoga, biking, and dancing.

Protect your Brain from Stress

Stress takes a toll on the brain. It affects memory, causes inflammation, and disrupts other critical brain functions. This is why stress is associated with numerous health conditions and is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. While recovery can be stressful, it’s incredibly important that you have ways to cope with stress. 

Some tips to help you protect your recovery include: 

  • Get Organized and maintain a consistent schedule 
  • Reduce your caffeine intake
  • Write in a journal 
  • Attend your meetings 
  • Establish healthy boundaries 

Get Enough Rest 

When you sleep, your body gets the opportunity to repair and heal itself. Sleep is a critical part of your recovery plan, especially knowing that it can boost the reproduction of cells involved in brain repair

Unfortunately, getting enough quality sleep can be a challenge for people in recovery. The key is to create a healthy schedule that makes sleep a priority.

Here are a few tips to help you get more restorative sleep

  • Establish a routine where you go to bed and wake up at the same time, even on weekends
  • Don’t take naps after 3 pm and don’t let naps go beyond 20 minutes
  • Stay away from caffeine come afternoon; avoid nicotine 
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal right before bed 
  • Make your bedroom comfortable, dark, and quiet 
  • Turn off digital devices at least an hour before bed
  • Do something calming if you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes 

Healing Your Brain One Step at a Time 

The brain is more malleable than we once thought, and researchers have confirmed that brain cell regeneration is possible. However, the brain still requires your help to heal, which is why you need to hunker down and develop a lifestyle that embraces nutritious eating, regular sleep and exercise, and stress management. 

Continuum Recovery Center makes your mental and physical health a priority. We realize that recovery takes place in stages, and it can take some time before the brain heals. However, there are many things you can do to speed up this process and make it more effective, and it starts with the treatment you get early on. 

By seeking recovery at Continuum Recovery Center, you can start working our program while caring for all aspects of your health. Contact Us Today to Learn More about our substance abuse treatment in Phoenix.