Wellness Series: Substance Use and Addiction

Happy Friday! I love that this blog comes to you on one of the most positive days of the week.  Yup! It is proven that, in general, individuals are much happier on Fridays because we are looking forward to the weekend. Think about our attitudes in general. I know for me I am always much more chipper on a Friday afternoon versus a Monday! Hope you all had a wonderful summer week and were able to find some coolness in this hot hot HOT July heat. This week marks the beginning of a multi-week series related to substance use.

Substance use is a difficult topic for many. This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.  Having been in this field for the past five years, I feel that I have gained a lot of knowledge that can help others. I was the child of an alcoholic father. He was a good good man unless he was drunk. Then he became very mean and abusive. I remember just wanting him to stop drinking and why wasn’t my mom, my siblings or myself enough for him to stop drinking? Well, it was not until I started into this line of work that I began to understand truly what addiction is. Believe me, if an addict could just stop their use and move on, many of them would. Most addicts don’t like their use or how it makes them, their family and their friends feel. But it is not that easy.  The body and mind have been altered by the substances they use, making it so difficult to stop the use of those exact substances.

What happens to the mind with substance use?

  • The Basal Ganglia is the pleasure part of the brain where excitement and pleasurable feelings come from. With continued substance use, this area of the brain is greatly impacted, and individuals begin to experience the inability to feel excitement or pleasure other than when they use substances.
  • The Amygdala is responsible for stressful feelings like anxiety, worry, frustrations, and irritability. When an addict tried to stop their use, these feelings are intensified and cause individuals to seek substances more for lessening the pain of these feelings. Often, individuals use substances to lessen intensive emotional pain, past or present trauma, or abuse rather than for the euphoria or high that the substance gives. 
  • The Prefrontal Cortex is the thinking part of the brain. In this area we make decisions, create plans, solve problems, and exhibit self-control. With continued substance use this part of the brain is affected so that everything is lessened. An individual’s ability to make good decisions or follow through with plans are often difficult with substances on board.  Also, self-control is very difficult to keep which makes it hard for addicts to refrain from using.
  • The spinal cord can be affected with certain types of substances which can be life-threatening.

I have included the link to the web page that I found so much information on. It has a ton of in-depth information to help with grasping a better understanding of what substances do to the mind and issues created within the human body.


Being patient and loving to addicts is very important. However, it is also very important to not be an enabler for that individual. Addiction is a vicious life-altering cycle that many go through time after time. For those that have fought the battle and succeeded in attaining sobriety, the battle is not won. The battle is not over nor will it ever be. The battle of addiction must be fought daily for the rest of their lives. Yes, the pull toward substances may lessen over time, but the draw is always there. It is always right around the corner waiting and looming.  Addicts must learn how to live again. They must work hard to relearn how to handle thoughts, feelings, and emotions that have been suppressed by substance use. Those thoughts, feelings and emotions at times are overwhelming and without the tools to address and overcome, many individuals experience relapses which begins the vicious cycle all over again. Individuals that have not experienced addiction can find understanding addiction very difficult. Most individuals can take their thoughts, feelings, and emotions in stride and deal with them in a healthy manner because they have not been inhibited by mind-altering substances.

For this week, my challenge to you is to research and learn more about addiction. Educate yourself. Education about addiction can be one of the most helpful things that you can do not only for yourself but for addicts in general. Education and understanding of the disease of addiction itself can help in decreasing the stigma that at times inhibits addicts from seeking help.

Next week I will discuss some substance use statistics along with alcohol use in-depth.

I hope that you all have a blessed last week of July 2020.