Norepinephrine’s Role in Impulse, Anxiety and Addiction

Norepinephrine’s Role in Impulse, Anxiety and Addiction

You can protect yourself or a loved one from addiction by managing anxiety and impulse control through medications and therapy

An important part of learning to avoid addiction relapse is managing anxiety and impulse control. Often, medications that manage other health conditions can cause problems when it comes to avoiding relapse triggers. For example, norepinephrine treats conditions like low blood pressure that occurs with certain medical conditions and after surgery, and it is a natural neurotransmitter found in the brain. This chemical is directly related to attention span, responses to stress, heart rate, blood pressure and muscle control. When levels of it are compromised, someone who struggles with substance abuse can find it difficult to control her drug cravings. However, if she uses the coping strategies that she learned in rehab and regularly attends support group meetings, then she can manage her anxiety while she also avoids addiction relapse.

The Brain and Drug Addiction

The brain uses chemicals called neurotransmitters to send messages throughout the central nervous system and body. These chemicals control all involuntary and voluntary nerve functions; from your heartbeat to experiencing pain, neurotransmitters are constantly working to get the right messages to the right locations. However, when someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the brain becomes dependent upon the sensations that drugs produce, so it no longer releases the proper neurotransmitters to do their work. The dependency upon drugs to feel and function “normally” forms as a result of neuroadaptation, which means that drugs restructure the cells of the brain. Cellular restructuring from drugs can lead to mood disorders, memory problems, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. In other words, the more someone abuses drugs, the more he needs drugs to continue functioning.

When the brain no longer releases neurotransmitters properly, it leaves addicts with the belief that they need the drug to feel normal. Unfortunately, the more they use the drug, the worse the brain creates its own norepinephrine.

Addiction and Norepinephrine

Norepinephrine can be an important part of treatment for certain health conditions, but impulse control can become an issue when proper amounts of natural norepinephrine is unavailable to the body. Any imbalance of brain chemicals can bring on behaviors that can send recovering addicts back to drugs. However, if you learn to control impulses with the help of appropriate treatment, then you can prevent addiction or relapse. Because norepinephrine regulates impulses, anxiety and depression, a lack of this chemical can make it difficult for recovering addicts to respond in healthy ways to addiction triggers. Seeing people whom you associate with your addiction, increased stress levels and an overwhelming sense of sadness can all result from abnormal amounts of this neurotransmitter. In each case, users may feel overwhelmed to use drugs again to regain their self-control.

Over time, the brain can heal and begin to release the right neurotransmitters at the right time. It is important to remember that recovery is a life-time commitment, so focus on a return to normalcy as a journey of one day at a time. While your body and brain heal from addiction, you can cope with cravings and maintain a healthy emotional balance if you employ the strategies that you learned in addiction treatment. In fact, your therapist and support group are key components to continued recovery success. Regular therapy sessions and time spent with people who are on the same journey as you can reduce your risk of relapse and increase the likelihood of recovery success.

The following techniques can reduce anxiety, boost mood and maintain appropriate impulse control when relapse triggers happen:

  • Call or meet with your accountability partner, because this person knows you well and understands what you need to get through a craving
  • Change your location. If you find yourself faced with a relapse trigger, then an immediate change in location can redirect your mind from the drug craving. Go for a walk. Take a bike ride. Go visit a friend. It only takes a few minutes of a new activity to weaken an addiction trigger, which means you can stay sober for another day.
  • Develop a new routine. If you find yourself regularly confronted with relapse triggers, then it is time to change your routine. Find a new way to get to work. Consider choosing a new career or even moving to a new neighborhood. Whatever it takes to remain in control and fight the urge to use drugs is what you must do.

In other words, you can stay clean from drugs if you have the right support and mindset.

Find Help for Drug and Alcohol Addiction

A low supply of natural norepinephrine in the brain can lead to addiction relapse. If you maintain a healthy emotional balance and make healthy choices while working through cravings, then you can avoid derailing your recovery. If you or a loved one struggles with drug or alcohol addiction, then know that we are here for you. Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.