In ancient Greece, a group of people championed the philosophy of hedonism, an idea which considers pleasure to be the inherent value or good in life. Followers of hedonism spent their lives maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain, believing momentary pleasant sensations to be the highest goal in life. It’s from these people that we get the word hedonistic, meaning indulgent, decadent, or pleasure-seeking. But people who are addicted to drugs sometimes face a harrowing state that’s diametrically opposed to the hedonist lifestyle of old—anhedonia, a condition in which the body is physically incapable of experiencing pleasure.


Anhedonia occurs when the brain’s pleasure and reward system, involving the mesocortical reward circuit and the dopaminergic mesolimbic, experiences a decline in function. Researchers have suggested that long-term drug use hampers regular dopamine production and circulation in the brain, leading to extremely low levels of dopamine and an inability to experience pleasure. There are methods of treating anhedonia, including therapy, medications, and social support, and drug rehab programs or sober living can offer clients assistance in this challenging time, but full recovery can take months. Anhedonia can also play a significant role in prompting relapse, hindering those in recovery from maintaining sobriety.


Contrary to the moralistic model of addiction, people who are addicted to drugs don’t continue using just because they are chasing a high. Their motivation is not the pursuit of sensual pleasure, as hedonism might encourage, but, in fact, the avoidance of pain. After taking drugs for an extended period of time, the brain is robbed of its ability to feel any pleasure at all. Without drugs, people feel depressed, listless, or numb. Normally pleasurable activities, such as eating, sex, and interacting with friends and family, don’t produce positive feelings. In this state, taking drugs does not make people feel high, but restores a baseline feeling of normalcy to help them get through the day. Anecdotes of people wearing four fentanyl patches at once or popping hundreds of pills every day illustrate the lengths to which people go to avoid the pain of withdrawal. Ironically, it’s only when someone goes through detoxification and withdrawal at an addiction treatment center that they can begin to heal from anhedonia.


But unfortunately, anhedonia doesn’t disappear when someone stops using drugs. Anhedonia can last for several months to a year after becoming abstinent in an addiction recovery facility. It’s one of the most challenging aspects of early recovery; newly sober people feel as though they should be happy, excited, or feel great, but instead they feel numb. They must wait for their brains to recover and repair the circuitry required to begin enjoying life again.


If you or someone you love is addicted to alcohol or drugs, please speak with Right Path Drug Rehab today, and we’ll help you find a luxury drug rehab program that suits your individual needs. During treatment, clients participate in in-depth group and one-on-one meetings, discover the root causes of their addiction, and develop a sober community of supportive peers and mentors. Please contact us today to begin a new chapter of sustained sobriety and wellness.

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