The peripheral nervous system and the role it plays in the body is sort of a mystery to lots of people. The central nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord, while the peripheral nervous system includes nerves and branches from the brain and spinal cord to elsewhere in the body like muscles and organs. Learn more about the role of this system in the body and how it relates to personal recovery from addiction.

Peripheral Nervous System

The peripheral nervous system (PNS) is the division of the nervous system containing nerves that lie outside the central nervous system (CNS). the primary role of the PNS is to connect the CNS to the organs, limbs, and skin. These nerves extend from the central nervous system to the outermost areas of the body. The peripheral system allows the brain and spinal cord to receive and send information to other areas of the body, which allows people to react to stimuli in the environment. The nerves make up the peripheral nervous system made up of axons and bundles of axons from neuron cells. These nerves are very small.

Autonomic Nervous System

The autonomic system is part of the peripheral nervous system responsible for regulating involuntary body functions, like blood flow, heartbeat, digestion, and breathing. It is this autonomic system that controls aspects of the body not usually under voluntary control. This allows functions to take place without needing to think about them happening. This includes the fight-or-flight responses to prepare the body for danger or threats. The parasympathetic system helps maintain normal body functions. Once a threat passes, the system slows the heart rate, slows breathing, and reduces heart rate.

Addiction and Nervous System

Active addiction includes a risk to the body’s nervous system because of activity in the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic division of the ANS is activated under circumstances of perceived threat and sets in motion physiological responses preparing the body for ‘fight’ or ‘flight’. These unconscious responses put mind and body on high alert, priming for action by initiating hypervigilance, increasing heart rate, constricting blood vessels, increasing blood pressure, and inhibiting digestion. The chronic stress response can continue during post-acute withdrawal, only receiving and restarting over time. People in recovery usually experience stress in combination with many other factors. The challenge is to reset this system in recovery. When you are detoxing and resetting your body’s balance, you are giving it a chance to rest and heal from chronic levels of high stress. The key is to let your body do what it naturally wants to do and provide space for it to begin the journey of recovery. This will help cortisol levels drop, your nerves recover to a calm state, and begin the process of letting your body get time to breathe as you move forward.

A Step in the Right Direction provides quality care for clients seeking support for addiction recovery. We teach people how to live a sober life through programs, therapeutic support, and evidence-based therapies. Our recovery program is staffed by people who understand the power of addiction. For more information sober living programs for men and women as well as recovery programs, call (877) 377-3702.