How Long Does it Take to Rewire Brain from Addiction?


Every day can feel like an eternity when you are on the recovery journey. Recovery from addiction is full of uncertainty, constantly making you wonder when your brain will break free from the growing depths of addiction. 

This journey to rewire your brain will feel like moving through uncharted territory, with the destination uncertain and the road ahead challenging. Each day of brain rewiring will call for a strong determination. 

At each step, you will find yourself wondering how long to rewire brain from addiction!

Well, the answer to the question is much more than a specific time frame.

Moreover, addictions can be of various kinds, right from substance addiction to porn addiction and more; hence, the span of brain recovery will also vary. While some addiction treatment can be a lifelong process, others can start showing brain changes within months.

But, despite their differences, different addictions do show a point in common- that is, the havoc they create in an addict’s life!

All forms of addictions have the potential to bring great negative consequences to your life. So, it’s absolutely important to break free and rewire your brain.

But how long to rewire brain from addiction?

Well, here are some helpful guidelines to help you better understand the brain rewiring and recovery process and how you can train your addicted brain to break free!

What Does Addiction Do To The Brain?

how long to rewire brain from addiction

When exploring the complicated world of addiction, it’s important to know how it affects the brain. In this article, we’ll mainly talk about two types of addictions: substance addiction (drugs, and alcohol) and behavioral addictions (primarily porn addiction).

But before we continue, let’s quickly grasp what they mean.

1. Substance addiction

Addiction to substances is when your body becomes dependent on any kind of substance, such as alcohol, nicotine, drugs, or medication. This dependence gets stronger with constant use, messing up with your brain circuits and body, making it tough to quit. And in case someone tries to stop, they face a tricky tangle of withdrawal symptoms.

2. Behavioral addictions

Behavioral addictions, often referred to as process addictions, basically include behaviors that spiral into compulsive patterns, disrupting daily life. Some of the common types include porn addiction, gambling addiction, addiction to phones and devices, gaming addiction, etc. Moreover, behavioral addictions are a relatively new concept; they are still under the lens of researchers.

Now, with that out of the way, let us under how severe addiction impacts your brain health. 

Well, addiction is a complex phenomenon; it affects the brain in a very specific way, rewiring how it generally functions. 

Basically, when anyone falls into the grip of addiction, their brain chemistry is affected, giving rise to a growing and addictive hunger for rewards. These rewards can either be any addictive substance or any addictive behavior, depending on the type of addiction the person is dealing with. 

And this only gets worse with time. 

What starts in small doses, painting an illusion of contentment, with time, turns into the brain adapting and building a tolerance that just keeps demanding more. 

It’s like achieving a milestone, after which the brain perceives pleasure and simply craves more. 

When first becoming addicted, occasional exposure does the trick only to increase its grip on your brain with time, pushing you for more and more.

The cycle continues, and this is how any addiction grows.

If you curb that compulsive need at is stage, well, my friend, you save yourself from a lot!

How Is Your Brain Affected by Different Types of Addiction?

Let us now understand how is the brain affected by different types of addiction:

A. Substances Addiction

When it comes to substances, be it alcohol or drug addiction, the impact on the brain is profound and multi-layered. The three main areas of the brain, namely, the cerebral cortex, limbic system, and brain stem, are mainly affected by the influence of addictive drugs. In fact, contrary to popular belief, addiction is much more than a battle of willpower. 

It interferes with the rewiring process in the following ways:

1. The Chemical Interference:

Drugs infiltrate the nervous system, mimicking the brain’s natural chemical processes. Thus, the overstimulation of the brain, particularly the ‘reward’ center, creates a heightened sense of pleasure.

2. Dopamine Hijacking:

Dopamine, our pleasure-inducing neurotransmitter, is released excessively during substance use.

The euphoria experienced from this substance use disorder basically results from the manipulated dopamine levels, hijacking our natural reward system.

However, even after the substance use, the craving for dopamine persists, making it challenging to find joy in ordinary pleasures.

3. The Brain’s Transformation:

Brain measurement techniques reveal a stark difference between a healthy brain and one under the influence of drugs. Remarkably, after a year of abstinence from addictive substances, the brain shows signs of recovery, eventually moving toward normalcy.

Understanding these links between substance use disorders and the brain helps us understand the challenges that come along. As we can see, addiction is not merely a matter of choice but a complex interplay within the neural processes, where the road to recovery is a gradual journey back to equilibrium.

B. Porn Addiction

Porn Addiction effects brain

Before we move on to understand how long to rewire brain from porn addiction, let’s first see what impact this behavioral addiction brings to your brain. 

Well, today, porn is easily accessible with just a click. Many people dabbled in it at least once, but for some, the allure becomes a consuming struggle. 

But how does this affect your brain? Here’s how:

1. Psychological Complexities:

Research hints at a connection between mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and excessive porn consumption. And while it’s unclear whether porn causes these mental states or people turn to it as a coping mechanism, the interdependence just intensifies with time!

Many people start watching porn to ease the occurring mental health issues like anxiety or depression. However, they end up creating a paradox where the initial relief transforms into the cycle of addictive behaviors. Your mental health just gets worse with the deeper grip of growing addiction. 

2. Brain Rewiring:

Brain Rewiring:

Picture this in caveman terms: desire for porn, thoughts consumed by it, access, pleasure, guilt, and the cycle repeats. Over time, the brain’s decision-making and willpower hub diminishes. Porn acts as a gateway drug, unleashing dopamine in quantities that overshadow even real sexual encounters. This rewires the brain, creating a preference for erotic images over genuine partners, leading to dissatisfaction in real-life relationships.

3. Addiction Parallels:

Many researchers link the impact of porn addiction on the brain to that of cocaine. They emphasize the quest for more, desensitization to regular content, and the pursuit of novelty. Additionally, it is also found that those immersed in excessive porn exhibit less gray matter in their brains, sparking debates on causation versus correlation.

How Long Does it Take to Rewire Brain from Different Types of Addiction?

Now, we know what effects addiction can have on our brain. However, the question remains-how long to rewire brain from porn addiction? Let’s find out:

A. Substance Addiction

So, how long to rewire brain from addiction?

Well, rewiring your brain from addiction to different substances like alcohol, cannabis, or any other drugs is like a puzzle; each piece fits differently for everyone. 

The duration of substance addiction recovery depends on many factors, including the type of substance abuse, the intensity of misuse, and the chosen path of rehabilitation.

For instance, take cocaine; it is a potent addiction that demands an intensive rewiring process. The temporal aspects vary; some find the brain rebalancing in a month, while others might require several months. 

But let’s be clear—this isn’t an overnight magic trick. The journey to addiction recovery demands patience and a holistic approach.

Moreover, an evidence-based rehab program integrating various disciplines can be the compass guiding you through this transformative change. 

B. Porn Addiction 

Understanding how long to rewire brain from porn addiction includes a thorough understanding of the distinct stages. Dr. Patrick Carnes, a renowned sex addiction expert, experimented and shed light on a comprehensive timeline spanning five years of addiction recovery.

1. Development Stage:

This initial phase precedes the acknowledgment of a problem. Some traverse through it fleetingly, while others linger here for years. The clock on recovery begins ticking only once a person moves beyond this stage.

2. Crisis/Decision Stage (0-3 months):

Lasting from a day to three months, this stage is marked by a fundamental commitment to change. Whether triggered by the life-altering negative impacts of porn addiction or a personal decision to break free.

3. Shock Stage (1-8 months):

Perhaps the most challenging part of this stage involves a rollercoaster of emotions. An addict will feel a range of emotions, including disbelief and numbness alternating with irritation and anger, as well as physical withdrawal symptoms. The addict grapples with disorientation, confusion, and an intense struggle to concentrate.

4. Grief Stage (6 months):

After the shock, the addict moves to the stage where they begin addressing the issues caused by porn. This phase involves reflection on the root causes of their porn use, leading to a period of deep emotional turmoil, regrets, and grieving.

5. Repair Stage (18-36 months):

Following the grief, recovery shifts towards learning balance, self-care, and cultivating positive habits to replace the addiction. This period, as per Carnes’s timeline, can extend up to three years.

6. Growth Stage (2+ years):

The final stage marks a mature outlook on life and one’s relationship with porn. Partnerships and relationships undergo renewal, and life satisfaction sees improvement. Dr. Carnes notes that while slip-ups often occur six to twelve months into recovery, persistence leads to increasing success thereafter.

Now, you need to remember that its timeline span strictly in case of severe porn addiction and will vary depending on the level and depth your porn addiction has taken in your life.  


Rewiring your brain and resetting it from any kind of addiction is a hard process. But it’s not impossible. If you are who is just at the initial stages, remember you still have time to get out and not go through the extensive recovery journey that an addicted brain demands. 

However, if you are already in the deeper depths, remember you can still get out and work on your brain health; it’s absolutely possible. It will take time, determination, discipline, and a plan. 

Work on keeping out the temptation, joining a support group, finding an accountability partner, or seeking help from medical professionals. 

Remember what real intimacy and connection are supposed to be, and take a break from the momentary online pleasure. 

You can do it; you can recover.


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Lynda Mayer

Lynda Mayer, LPCC, an alumnus of the University of Minnesota with a master's degree in Clinical Psychology, is a seasoned licensed professional clinical counselor. With over a decade of experience in counseling, she specializes in adolescent mental health. Lynda actively shares her extensive knowledge and insights through writing, contributing significantly to the field of psychology and mental well-being. Her work not only demonstrates her expertise but also her commitment to improving adolescent mental health outcomes.