Understanding the Effects of Drugs on the Brain

Effects of Drugs on the BrainPeople in the science and medical industries examine human brains and their functions, and have for centuries. Being the most complex body part in our anatomy, it requires continuous study to map out which parts of the brain are adversely altered by various drug compounds.

We know, that the brain stem controls our automatic life functioning systems, like heart-rate, breathing, and sleeping. These are critically affected by many types of drugs, some legal and most illegal substances. There are many divisions of the cerebral cortex, assigned to control different body functions like sight, taste, hearing, and touch. The front of our cortex is the part we use for thinking, planning, solving problems, and we make decisions within the Frontal Cortex.

How Drugs Trick Our Brains

Our brain has a structure designed as a reward system. This side of the brain called the limbic system, controls and regulates our pleasure centers. This part of our brain also learns from signals and effects to our bodies. This is how we sense emotion, one of the key areas that illegal substances does the greatest damage. It is called mood-altering, our positive and negative emotions.

Our brain is made up of cells. Some of these cells are nerve cells which are the communication networks that send and receive signals from all our body parts and send messages back. This network is constantly working getting and receiving signals from everywhere all at the same time. Communications are created by chemicals that trigger our neurotransmitters to send to our receptors(brain proteins, that receive messages). Chemical compounds of all kinds of drugs, including marijuana, heroin, meth and a whole range of others, will mimic our normal chemical brain functions, then disrupt normal messages, distorting neurotransmitter activity.

What Feels Like It’s Good is Really a Chemical Trap

The effect drug abusers notice is when a drug targets the brain’s reward system, the limbic part of the brain, causing it to release too much dopamine, which floods the brain circuits. The result of flooding these brain circuits reinforces the behavior of drug use, creating a compulsion in the user to repeat the behavior. Science now recognizes the new activation of our limbic system is a message to life-sustaining centers, telling the brain that something important is happening and stores this information in its system memory. A foreign substance that stimulates our brain circuitry artificially teaches the brain to continue the behavior repeatedly, as if it is a survival function, without using the thinking part of the brain.

Permanently Altering the Brain’s Normal Function

Continuously taking drugs or other substances causes the brain to reduce the power of dopamine. It’s like turning down the television volume because the loud sound is too irritating. This leaves a drug user or abuser unable to experience any other kind of natural pleasure, from good food, emotions, or sex, for example. They are also never able to feel that pleasure effect they first felt from the drug as well. This is called tolerance. Drug users get locked into a cycle of constantly trying to find that original effect through experimenting with other substances.

Drug Abuse Damage Becomes More Obvious

Long-term drug users are found to have permanently damaged cognitive function. This is a learning impairment and a disabled nonconscious memory dysfunction. Self-control and sound decision-making erode as the drug abuse process takes over. The abusers are not aware of the impairment because the chemical changes in the brain simulate normalcy to their awareness.

Substance Abuse Addictive Behaviors Are Treatable

People caught in the cycle of substance addiction are treatable. Scientific research shows that the disease and much of the damages caused by substance abuse can heal over time, depending on the duration and the amount of use. The treatment of addictions are similar to other chronic disease treatments. Relapse can occur, but that doesn’t mean the treatment has failed. The quicker treatment is continued, the less the brain is altered, and behaviors learned will continue to improve over time.

What is Cognitive Bahavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of treatment specific to transforming the altered behaviors of a substance abuser. Helping them sense and be aware when their thinking and behavior needs to change, is a process and does acknowledge that relapses can occur. In this treatment, the patient is training to be aware of inaccurate thinking patterns and over time, they are more able to respond to challenging circumstances effectively.

How to Best Help a Substance Abuser

If you are dealing with the unending cycle of substance abuse, contact a treatment center with a good Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program. Treatment is the key to developing a strong support system that understands how you need to deal with the situations in your life and get control of your life back.

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