A graphic showing which areas of the brain influence addiction

Which Areas of the Brain Influence Addiction?

Did you know that your brain plays a critical role in whether you will develop an alcohol or drug addiction? Many people assume that addiction is a result of weak willpower or lack of self-control, but it is actually a result of neurological changes in areas of the brain that influence addiction. Why should you learn more about which areas of the brain influence addiction? The benefits of understanding how addiction works in your brain can give you an edge in preventing yourself from developing a dependence on substances. 

If you need help with addiction, contact Promises Right Step Hill Country at 1.844.675.1628. Our addiction treatment programs address the needs of the whole person so you can enjoy a healthy recovery.

Which Areas of the Brain Influence Addiction?

Several key areas in the brain play a role in one’s risk of addiction. Here is a breakdown of the parts of the brain involved in addiction and how they contribute to addiction risk.


The amygdala is responsible for processing emotions, particularly fear and stress. It interacts closely with the striatum and hippocampus, which are covered below, to influence addictive behaviors.

The amygdala can go into overdrive when you encounter stress, triggering a cascade of events that may lead to drug- or alcohol-seeking behavior as a coping mechanism. Of course, this can take you down the path to addiction over the long term.


The hippocampus plays a vital role in memory formation and learning. It can contribute to addiction by creating associations between triggers and the relief that substance use can bring.

Over time, you begin to crave drugs or alcohol when you encounter these triggers, such as craving a drink every time you feel stressed or wanting a benzodiazepine like Xanax whenever you enter a social setting. Using substances whenever you crave them eventually leads to the addiction cycle.

Prefrontal Cortex

The prefrontal cortex plays a crucial role in various cognitive functions, including decision-making and impulse control. Drug and alcohol use can negatively affect the functioning of the prefrontal cortex. Over time, they can lower your impulse control, and you may have a tougher time making healthy decisions.

With these two key areas impaired, you will be more likely to imbibe substances despite the potential harm, and you might be less likely to consider the consequences. Eventually, long-term or excessive drug or alcohol use will lead to addiction due in part to these changes in the prefrontal cortex.


The striatum is responsible for motivation, reward, and reinforcement. When you consume addictive substances like drugs or alcohol, it can interfere with the functioning of the striatum by flooding the brain with dopamine. This action contributes to addictive behavior because it encourages you to keep coming back for more to maintain the positive feelings associated with substance use.

How Can You Reduce the Risk of Addiction?

You can use this knowledge of the brain to help reduce the risk of developing an addiction. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Calm the amygdala by practicing stress reduction techniques like breathing exercises and yoga.
  • Be aware of triggers to use substances and find alternative responses, such as working out after a stressful day instead of going to happy hour.
  • Take prescription medications only as prescribed by your doctor, and avoid using them recreationally.
  • If you consume alcohol, practice moderate drinking, which is up to one drink per day for women and two for men.
  • Boost your dopamine levels in a healthier way by meditating, exercising, getting enough sunlight, or listening to your favorite music.

These strategies use what is known about the connection between the brain and addiction to your advantage by interrupting positive associations with substances and incorporating healthier methods to stimulate feel-good hormones.

Reach Out to Promises Right Step Hill Country for Addiction Treatment

Understanding how the areas of the brain that influence addiction work is crucial for developing effective prevention and treatment strategies. While prevention is key, it can be a challenge to abstain from substance use if you have already developed a dependence. Reach out to Promises Right Step Hill Country at 1.844.675.1628 or use our online contact form for the support you need to overcome addiction.

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