What is the Role of the Hippocampus in Addiction?

What is the Role of the Hippocampus in Addiction?

A small organ located within the brain’s medial temporal lobe and part of the limbic system, the hippocampus is responsible for regulating emotions. We need our hippocampus to learn, have emotions, as well as formulate new memories; with our hippocampus, we can also connect our senses to certain memories – much like how you might recall the warmth of your grandmother’s hug every time you see a freshly baked apple pie. Very Well Mind states that the hippocampus isn’t exactly where all of our long-term memories are stored – rather, it serves more as an information processing center which helps us take in the information and digest what is important to remember.

The hippocampus is a huge component of the brain that’s impacted when substance abuse takes place. When we abuse substances, they short-cut directly to our brain’s reward system – the amygdala – by flooding the nucleus accumbens (which influences desire, inhibition, etc.) with dopamine, a “feel-good” chemical. As Harvard Medical School emphasizes, substances literally hijack the brain when the hippocampus stores information of that pleasurable feeling derived from using. From there, memories are laid down of that experience and the brain starts to become conditioned to receiving that type of stimulation.

A 2016 article published in the journal Learning & Memory sought to review how the hippocampus is affected by addiction. Researchers identified a major way the hippocampus affects addiction recovery: withdrawal symptoms can spark the desire of using again in order to rid of those uncomfortable feelings

Since the hippocampus plays a major role in the communication efforts exhibited in the brain, recovery can be particularly challenging because the brain has become “hardwired” to desire substances. This is a major reason why recovery should be experienced in a formalized setting – so that medication, support, holistic resources and other aspects of recovery can be tended to by addiction recovery professionals.

If you’re ready to begin your journey towards restoration of the mind, body and spirit, speak with a professional from a reputable treatment center today.

The mission of The Beach House is to provide success in the recovery process and elevate the standard of comprehensive addiction treatment. Located right on the coast of Malibu, California, expert clinical care and a holistic view of the recovery process is provided to ensure Best-in-Class treatment tailored to the needs of each client. If you’re ready to start your recovery journey today, call us at 310-924-0780.

Saving Lives; Healing Families.


Kimberly James

I am the founder and owner of The Beach House Treatment Center, The White House, Indigo Ranch, Sweetwater Mesa and Beach House Center for Wellness, all in Malibu, California.