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Substance Use and Addiction: Understanding Brain Impact, Risk Factors, and Warning Signs

Home » Blog » Substance Use and Addiction: Understanding Brain Impact, Risk Factors, and Warning Signs

Substance addiction, a complex disease impacting the brain and behavior, is characterized by an irresistible compulsion to use substances despite their harmful consequences. Early intervention in substance addiction, also known as substance use disorder, significantly increases the chances of avoiding the severe impacts of this condition.

Substance addiction extends beyond the abuse of illegal substances like heroin and cocaine. It encompasses addiction to alcohol, nicotine, sleep aids, anti-anxiety medications, and other legally obtained substances.

The addiction spectrum also includes dependence on prescription or illegally acquired narcotic pain relievers, or opioids. This issue has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, with opioids contributing to two-thirds of all substance overdose deaths in 2018.

Initially, individuals might choose to use a substance for its pleasurable effects, underestimating their ability to control their usage. However, over time, these substances can alter brain function, leading to long-lasting physical changes and a loss of control, often resulting in harmful behaviors.

Substances come in various forms, including pills and injectable solutions.

Distinguishing Addiction from Misuse and Tolerance

Substance misuse involves using legal or illegal substances inappropriately, such as exceeding the prescribed dosage or using someone else’s prescription. Misuse is often driven by a desire to achieve pleasure, reduce stress, or escape reality. In many cases, individuals can alter these unhealthy habits or cease usage altogether.

In contrast, addiction is characterized by the inability to stop using substances, even when they pose health risks or cause financial, emotional, and other problems. This overwhelming urge to use substances can dominate an individual’s daily life, making quitting a significant challenge.

Addiction differs from physical dependence or tolerance. Physical dependence is marked by withdrawal symptoms upon abrupt cessation, while tolerance refers to the diminishing effect of a substance over time.

For example, long-term use of opioids for relapse prevention therapy can lead to tolerance and physical dependence. However, this does not necessarily indicate addiction, especially under proper medical supervision, where addiction occurs in only a small percentage of individuals.

Effects on the Brain

The brain’s reward system is designed to encourage repeating pleasurable experiences. Addictive substances target this system, flooding the brain with dopamine and triggering intense pleasure. Over time, the brain adapts to this surplus of dopamine, leading to the need for increased substance use to achieve the same level of pleasure. This adaptation can diminish enjoyment from other activities, such as eating or socializing.

Prolonged substance use can also impact other brain functions, affecting judgment, decision-making, memory, and learning abilities. These changes can drive uncontrollable cravings for substances.

Risk Factors for Addiction

Addiction susceptibility varies among individuals, influenced by factors like:

  • Family History: Genetics play a significant role, with a higher likelihood of addiction if immediate family members have substance use disorders.
  • Early Substance Use: Drug use during childhood or adolescence can increase addiction risk later in life.
  • Mental Disorders: Individuals with mental health issues, such as depression, attention deficits, or anxiety, are more prone to addiction. Traumatic experiences also elevate this risk.
  • Troubled Relationships: Difficult family dynamics and weak bonds with parents or siblings can raise addiction likelihood.
  • Recognizing Addiction Signs

Signs of addiction may include:

  • Persistent cravings and inability to stop using substances
  • Excessive and prolonged substance use
  • Prioritizing substance procurement and usage over other activities
  • Continued use despite causing problems in personal and professional life
  • Neglecting self-care and appearance
  • Engaging in risky behaviors, like driving under influence or unprotected sex
  • Spending significant time obtaining, using, or recovering from substances
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms upon cessation
  • Preventing Addiction to Prescribed Painkillers

While most individuals taking prescribed pain medication as directed do not develop addiction, those with a history of substance misuse or family addiction history are at higher risk.

Don’t Wait; Get Help Now

If substance use becomes uncontrollable or problematic, consulting a doctor is crucial. Recovery from substance addiction is a gradual process with no definitive cure, but treatment involving counseling, medication, or both can be effective.

Hathaway Recovery Center offers comprehensive, individualized treatment plans, incorporating evidence-based therapies to address addiction’s root causes. Their team of compassionate professionals provides holistic programs in a private and luxurious setting, aiding in personal growth and new beginnings.

For assistance or to explore treatment options at Hathaway Recovery, contact their Admissions Department at (909-971-3333). All communications are confidential.

Addressing substance addiction is imperative. Utilizing local rehabilitation services, including specialized centers like Hathaway Recovery, plays a crucial role in this endeavor.


  • Excellent treatment center. Hathaway put on the road to recovery, I been sober 2 years today! Thank you Dena and staff members!

    Mike M.
  • Hathaway has saved my family. Before we found Hathaway my daughter was suffering with addiction however once we came to this facility the staff took her in and she felt comfortable and by a couple months she was ready to come back home fully recovered. Thank you Hathaway Recovery for saving her and thank you for the wonderful staff.

    Gabby H.
  • First I’ll start by saying that, this facility is absolutely beautiful! A couple years ago my husband Tony attended Hathaway Recovery in Claremont Ca. While Tony was in residential he received every care needed for a successful recovery. Also, he was able to enjoy the home gym at the beautiful Hathaway home, it’s basketball court, pool and etc. which made his stay even more pleasant. I am forever grateful for the man Tony has become ever since his completion. He has two years clean under his belt and many more to come because of the amazing facility. Thanks again Hathaway Recovery and Staff, Keep Continuing Changing Lives, God Bless Diane and Tony

    Diane K.
  • I came to Hathaway Recovery on court orders stemming from charges due to not taking medications for my mental health. I was fearful of what my future held and what that would look like. I have never been to a dual diagnosis treatment program before, and I didn’t know what to expect. I really didn’t think I had a substance abuse problem but after about 3-4 weeks of group therapy and the counselors here at this facility, I finally realized substance abuse influenced me to not be able to take care of my mental health. With the help of Hathaway Recovery’s team, I was able to build a strong foundation for my recovery that is vital to me and my family. The clinical staff, therapist, case managers, and counselors included, were honest, caring, and really helped me gain the knowledge I needed to build this recovery program and lifestyle. I am forever grateful for the treatment at Hathaway Recovery.

    Transition A.
  • My brother has been addicted for years. All our family gave up on him. Recently, he completed an inpatient residential program at Hathaway Recovery. This place is blessed and so helpful. It’s very luxurious, you feel like you are on vacation at a beautiful resort. Hathaway Recovery staff is very helpful, understanding and supportive. They all helped him to recover and to become a human again and enjoy his life. This place also supports family members and teaches them how to deal with aftercare to prevent relapse. Hathaway Recovery is the place for those who are struggling with addiction. Thank you for everything!

    Beauty D.
  • As a Trauma Informed Therapist I was contracted by Dina , the Owner to provide additional Trauma Informed Counseling. She indicated that she was seeking additional clinical services because her client population were enthusiastic about their recovery and she wanted to provide quality care. Working with Hathaway has been magical. This program does not separate addiction and mental health trauma into separate treatments, This program blends together the understanding that addicts have childhood trauma and have habitually used drugs or alcohol to dull their inner pain., Hathaway Recovery provides highly individual services for each client, including bilingual counseling. This is a program that I am proud to be a part of. Susan Pennington, LCSW – Trauma Informed Counseling Services.

    Susan P.
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  • After running into some trouble with the law, a substance abuse counselor suggested that I check myself into Hathaway Recovery. Hathaway Recovery helped me get my life back together one step at a time. Through discipline, routine, and structure, I can honestly say that this treatment center has helped me tremendously! The staff are very helpful and caring to each person’s needs, and helped me to realize the beauty of living a sober life.

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  • Finally, Hathaway is a Treatment Center that offers a holistic approach to addiction. This center offers a safe place, community and a network to grow with throughout your recovery process. They make you feel that you are NOT alone. The leadership has been in your shoes!!! Hathaway Recovery is more than just a temporary fix, it is a foundation, a movement, a family to be a part of.

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    Ashley A.
  • Hathaway Recovery and their staff have been nothing but supportive and understanding throughout our family member’s journey. I truly appreciate all the staff and their hard work. The communication has been great and has provided us a really positive experience. I would highly recommend this facility to anyone looking for a rehabilitation center for themselves or a loved one. Thank you Hathaway Recovery!

    Lilit H.
  • Hathaway Recovery is a very solid, very friendly place. My boyfriend decided to go here and has spent a significant amount of time at the recovery house. They are very good at bringing clients to meetings and on fun outings occasionally! Hathaway is committed to their clients’ recovery and their sobriety and to helping them in any way possible. They go above and beyond for the clients and I definitely would recommend considering Hathaway for your sobriety/recovery.

  • Hathaway is a warm caring treatment oriented environment to receive help from various addictions and behavioral problematic issues. The location itself is serene and safe.. I enjoyed the both staff/professional’s and patient’s… It has many services available, a very unique place… I recommend anyone to come and receive long-term treatment here at Hathaway…

  • Hathaway Recovery is a very solid, very friendly place. My boyfriend decided to go here and has spent a significant amount of time at the recovery house. They are very good at bringing clients to meetings and on fun outings occasionally! Hathaway is committed to their clients’ recovery and their sobriety and to helping them in any way possible. They go above and beyond for the clients and I definitely would recommend considering Hathaway for your sobriety/recovery.

  • “There was no longer any doubt in my mind that I was in the right place for my drug abuse treatment, “Of all the rehabs I could have chosen, I am glad I picked The Hathaway Recovery Support hope respect and care is what i was offered thanks for everything Hathaway recovery you are the best

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    Hathaway Recovery is an exclusive addiction rehab treatment center in California offering healing recovery from all substances. We’re proud to provide a great combination for drug, alcohol, psychiatric and psychological recovery treatment backed by experts in the addiction treatment field. Our drug and alcohol rehab is built on the cornerstone of care and compassion and accommodates clients and their families from all backgrounds to educate, inform, and create change around substance use disorder. In a secluded mountain hill luxury resort, our facility offers a therapeutic environment and array of clinical modalities to help individuals and their families. Our staff are also multilingual to address the needs of clients from anywhere in the world.

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