A substance abuse disorder can seem complicated. Addiction effects every area of life, from family relationships to finances and physical health. A critical area of health that addiction effects are the brain itself. People think and act differently when they’re in the grip of substance abuse. Much of this is attributed to the impact of drugs on the body and brain. So how does using drugs effect the brain of the user?
How Addiction Changes Brain Signals
Neurons are specialized cells transmitting that transmit nerve impulses to the body and brain. D4ugs interfere with the signals and can change the way they send, receive, and process. Not every drug affects the neurons in the same way.
For example, marijuana and opioids can activate neurons. Their chemical structure usually mimics the regular activity of neurons and neurotransmitters. These drugs can hijack the neurons, instead leading to abnormal messages being sent through the network. The brain acts differently because these aren’t true signals.
Uppers, and drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine, also cause neurons to act differently. They can release larger amounts of neurotransmitters than normally need or even halt the regular creation of these brain chemicals by interfering with the natural way they work. Because of this, the regular transport of neurons and neurotransmitters are interrupted, and there may be fewer of them available for the brain to use.
What Parts of the Brain Does Drug Use Affect?
Drug use can also alter certain parts of the brain, causing the compulsions that are usually associated with drug use. The basal ganglia, which helps control our motivation and reward circuits (such as feeling good about an accomplishment or enjoying a fresh-basked cookie) can go haywire, causing the brain to over-activate and need more of a drug to feel “high” as your brain adapts to drug use.
The extended amygdala moderates our stressful feelings such as anxiety, but with recurring drug use, it becomes more sensitive to discomfort, requiring more of a drug to repress this type of uncomfortable emotion. When a person using drugs isn’t having fun anymore, they will begin to use them to simply suppress the feelings this part of the brain.
Finally, the prefrontal cortex, an essential part of the brain that helps us think, make plans, solve puzzles and exercise self-control loses its balance with repeated substance use. For younger drug users, this effect is more potent because the brain hasn’t fully matured yet. It can also be pointed to as the part of the brain that helps with impulse control, which is one reason why drug users can’t control their ability to stop using despite negative consequences. When drugs or alcohol impair a person, this is the part of the brain that is suppressed when they make poor decisions.
Opioid drugs suck as heroin, Oxycontin, etc. also affect the brain stem. The stem is the part of the brain which helps us breathe, makes the heart beat, and cause drowsiness or cause sleep. When a person overdoses, it is this part of the brain that causes them to stop breathing.
Getting Help for an Addiction
Addiction can affect all aspects of your life, no matter who you are or where you come from. Recovery offers relief and a new chance at life. We’re here to help you take the first step and help you learn to live a full, healthy life without the use of substances. Please give us a call at 1-888-959-3277 to learn more about our programs and how we can help.