Rational thought is an important attribute of a functioning human. It is our logic and reasoning that make us stand out from all of God’s creation Sadly, addiction can inhibit rational thinking in very detrimental ways.
Many people wonder why someone with an addiction can’t just stop drinking or doing drugs. It turns out that how addiction affects the brain and inhibits the ability to think rationally is part of the answer.
Substance abuse and addiction interact with the brain’s reward system in a peculiar way. Abusing addictive substances creates a shortcut in the brain to feeling pleasure and satisfaction. This reward system rewrite overrides rational thought.
Not only do drugs and Alcohol rewire the reward system in the brain, but they also engage the reward-learning function of the brain. This kind of learning usually is associated with basic survival needs. This is part of why people dependent on substances have developed perceived needs for those substances.
There is also the emotional maturity of an individual to consider, in relation to rational thinking. Addiction can halt the development of a person’s emotional maturity, especially if they start using substances at a young age. This can interfere with the ability to think rationally as well.
Additionally, certain defense mechanisms that are less adaptive are heightened by addiction. These work against rational thinking, to preserve the ego and self-esteem. As these patterns of thought and behavior are not usually voluntary, but subconscious, they can easily get in the way of rational thought.
Emotional Immaturity is a common struggle that people with addictions face. With long-term substance abuse and addiction, certain parts of the brain are inhibited from developing. This often results in less sophisticated problem solving and emotional coping skills. When these skills sets are challenged, rational thinking is inherently less available.
This is especially common in individuals who start using substances at a young age when certain regions of the brain are not yet fully developed. Unfortunately, many people who suffer from addiction start at a very young age.
The prefrontal cortex, in the front of the brain, is the last region of the brain to finish developing completely in all people. It isn’t until the mid-twenties that the prefrontal cortex is totally developed. This is coincidentally the part of the brain that manages logic, reason and other important things. When brain activity is inhibited from the abuse of Alcohol or drugs, this fine-tune development cannot take place effectively.
Emotional coping and processing skills are also attributes that cannot properly develop during consistent substance abuse. When someone doesn’t have very good emotional coping skills, emotionally lead and reactionary behaviors become prominent. The emotions in this scenario easily overpower any kind of rational thinking.
The perceived need of a substance supersedes the logical or rational understanding that drugs are bad. This psychological dependency for drugs & alcohol negatively impacts an individuals moral stance, judgment, physical needs, like eating, sleeping and socializing, and self-esteem.
If you or a friend or loved one is struggling with substance abuse, help is available. Contact EIS for information
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