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Biochemistry of Addiction

Biochemistry of Addiction Resurgence – A man fighting addiction smokes and drinks.

How Biochemistry Impacts Addiction

Biochemistry in the brain plays a significant role in addiction. It accurately determines your recovery and ability to stay sober. Many factors in your life, such as family history, physical health, and mental health, can create a positive or negative effect on your recovery in drug rehab.

These biological or neurochemical factors determine if you will develop substance abuse disorders. Addiction can be preexisting. You can be born with neurotransmitter deficiencies. Addictions are direct responses to substances or behaviors regardless of character or personality.

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How Deficiencies Affect Your Health

Before you are even born, you were pre-programmed with a default brain setting. Your family’s genetic code and your parents’ and grandparents’ living conditions are factors that influence your development. Food choices, poverty, emotional trauma, and exposure to chemicals can impact multiple generations.

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The Delicate Balance of Brain Chemicals

Our brain is made up of hundreds of thousands of electric pathways. Each is stimulated by different neurotransmitters. Every emotion you experience is the result of electrical impulses zipping down a nerve fiber in your brain. This electric signal naturally stimulates the release of neurochemicals.

Five neurotransmitters play a role in addiction. They are serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, GABA, and endorphins. It is the combination of one or more of these neurochemicals that every addict is seeking to increase. Many “polydrug” users attempt to balance the effects on the neurotransmitter bombed by substance abuse.


The body’s “fight-or-flight” response is produced by neurotransmitters called catecholamines. There are three different types: dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. Catecholamines are naturally produced in the adrenal glands, nervous tissues, and brain. Unusually high or low levels of individual catecholamines will cause issues with your health. They also contribute to the drug addiction cycle.


Dopamine plays a huge role in your motivation. Dopamine only contributes to how you respond to pleasure; it does not create it. When you experience a positive sensation, dopamine is released. This release reinforces enjoyable experiences and behaviors by associating things that make you feel good. When you have a positive experience, you will want to do it again.

It is this cycle when hijacked by artificial means that causes addiction. Chronic drug abuse causes overstimulation in your reward center. The pathway is overwhelmed by being artificially stimulated by drugs. This makes it harder for your brain to handle the high levels. Your brain will react in two ways: it will decrease dopamine production or reduce dopamine receptors.

If you do not have enough dopamine in your brain, you will experience various symptoms, such as the inability to sit still or have a hard time concentrating.


Norepinephrine is another chemical that aids in the “fight or flight” response. Norepinephrine deficiency occurs when the neurotransmitter levels become too low. People typically develop neurotransmitter deficiencies with certain health conditions.

Taking certain medications may cause the body to produce less norepinephrine. There are also ways to raise hormone levels naturally. Getting enough sleep and regular exercise can boost norepinephrine levels. This hormone also plays a role in withdrawal aversion.


Serotonin plays a powerful role in our mood and emotions. 90% of the body’s serotonin is in your digestive system. Abnormal levels of serotonin have been linked to depression, troubled sleep, and appetite.

Without enough serotonin in your brain, you will likely experience irritability, mood swings, low self-esteem, or obsessive-compulsive behaviors. If you have a serotonin deficiency, you may find yourself seeking out candy, bread, and chocolate. Diet is an important part to keep your serotonin levels stable.

Gamma-aminobutyric Acid

Gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA is a neurotransmitter that stops nerve impulses to the spinal cord and the brain. GABA is a calming neurochemical. Many people who struggle with alcoholism have an inherent deficiency in GABA production. Alcohol mimics GABA. This superficial stimulation releases the dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine neurotransmitters.

This chain reaction of brain chemicals creates the intoxication effect of alcohol. As a consequence of alcohol addiction, the brain’s natural ability to produce GABA stops. This is how your brain deals with the constant presence of alcohol. Without enough GABA neurotransmitters, you will find yourself overwhelmed and burned out.


Endorphins are the opiate receptors in our brains. Endorphins are released in response to pain or stress as they minimize discomfort and pain and maximize pleasure. This is what gives you a sense of well-being and happiness. Endorphins are also released during exercise, intercourse, dancing, and laughing. Regular endorphins can prompt a body to relax and slow down breathing.

When endorphin levels are too low, a person’s health may be negatively affected. Low endorphin levels have been linked to depression and headaches. Opiate drugs negatively impact the release of endorphins. Unlike naturally occurring endorphins, opiates can cause you to stop breathing entirely.


When you stop taking drugs, your brain becomes overstimulated. The decrease in neurotransmitters causes you to feel pain, anxiety, and malaise. It is this change in the brain that causes you to seek out your substance of choice. When you seek and crave your drugs, it can release dopamine, which is the motivation to continue drug-seeking until you find it and consume it.

Insurance for Drug Rehab

Do you want drug detox or rehab treatment but are worried about how you can pay for it? We have a team of financial professionals who provide free insurance verification. We will work with you to determine how to move forward with the treatment in a way that works for you and your financial situation.

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Choosing the Right Drug Rehab

Addiction isn’t just about reliance on a substance. It is about interactions between biological factors like genetics. Early stress and trauma predispose you to develop an addiction.

If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol call Resurgence Health for a free consultation. Our comprehensive drug rehab programs are centered around you. We provide a safe and calming environment that allows you to focus on your recovery.

Call 877-321-2865 to schedule your consultation.

Does your Insurance Cover Rehab?

At Resurgence, we accept most PPO insurance. Verify your insurance now.