How Addiction Affects the Brain and what you can do about it
The brain is the core of all the things we did and connected with the body’s different activities such as breathing and our sensory organs functions. It enables us to communicate with others; it controls our emotions, thoughts, and behavior. It is also responsible for the way you interpret and react to the things you experience.
This white and gray matter is composed of different parts that work together to carry out the basic functions of the body. However, upon introduction of drugs to the system, the essential brain areas that are significant for life-continuing tasks are being altered. It will lead to compulsive substance abuse that can be the start of drug addiction. The particular brain areas that are affected by the substance misuse include:
- Brain stem. This area control functions significant to life such as breathing, heart rate, and sleeping.
- Cerebral cortex. This part is responsible for managing the tasks of your sensory organs which enables you to see, hear, feel and taste. It is also called the thinking core of the brain that influences our capacity to think and powers our problem solving and decision-making abilities.
- Limbic system. It is the brain’s reward component. The limbic system regulates and controls our capability to feel enjoyment and pleasure. Natural rewards coming from eating and sex activates the brain.
Now you may ask how do drugs affect these brain areas. So let us discuss this.
How do drugs affect the brain?
Drugs are made from different chemical structures that work on the brain by doing some changes in its communication system and hindering with the normal way brain cells or what you called neurons send, receive and process different information. Most common drugs that cause damage in the central part of the nervous system are marijuana, heroin, opioid, cocaine, and amphetamine. These substances trigger neurons in a way that their compound structure imitates the chemical makeup of a natural neurotransmitter. The likeness in the structure tricks the receptors and permits the drugs to affix into the neurons and activate it. But this activation is not the same as the natural one even though the chemical structure of the drugs is a copy of what the brain produces. It causes irregular messages being sent out in the system. The disturbance produces an interruption in the communication channels.
Drug addiction is the result of the substances targeting the reward system of the brain. It is done by introducing a lot of dopamine in the circuit. The element is a neurotransmitter that can be found in the section of the brain that controls emotion, movement, motivation, as well as feelings of pleasure. Natural behaviors are being rewarded by the system when the component is activated. But in instances of over-stimulation because of drugs, euphoric or ecstatic effects are being produced. It will add force to the behavior of substance misuse, instructing the person to keep repeating it until it becomes an addiction.
Dopamine is also the responsible factor why drugs become more addictive compared to other natural rewards. It is because substance abuse can release two to ten times the quantity of dopamine that normal rewards like eating and having sex do. The effects of drug misuse also last longer in contrast to the natural one. The brain is an intellectual part of the body which is why the moment it realizes that large quantity of feel-good chemicals is coming, it adjusts so that it will be able to take it. It is what you normally called as tolerance.
Drug Addiction as a Chronic Brain Ailment
Addiction in substance misuse can take serious levels to the point that you keep on doing it even if you are aware of its harmful effects, particularly to the brain. At first, your option to use drugs can be voluntary, but as you keep taking it for a longer period, you become dependent on it. It will be very hard to quit or refuse the drugs without the help of health professionals.
Because of drug tolerance, many addicts are being hospitalized, and serious cases lead to death. Tolerance also varies in each; some can have it even it is their first time to use the drug. It will influence your decision, behavior, and control other things like your learning abilities and memory.
Substance misuse among the adolescents can cause more harmful effects compared to other ages. It is because the brain at this particular point is developing and changing. Any changes that are affected and associated with drug abuse can be permanent.
Abuse of inhalants can cause a range of harmful effects like impaired vision and hearing, limited movement because of disability, and inferior cognitive skill. Other cases lead to dementia because of damaged brain nerves. Being overdosed on cocaine also causes frequent minuscule strokes in some parts of the brain, resulting in some dead spots in the system. Misusing methamphetamine damages the neurons that are responsible for controlling the mood, aggression, sleep, sexual activity, and sensitivity to pain by an individual.
Some extreme cases lead to permanent disability, and comatose, which is why taking immediate action to counter these serious consequences must always be considered.
Treatment of Brain in Substance Abuse thru Drug Rehab and Drug Recovery
The process of treating the brain that has under been drug addiction can be classified into two steps. The first one is to overturn the brain changes caused by the addiction, and the second one is to bring back the cognitive and other motor functions that have been lost in the attack of the drugs in the brain cells.
The first step is conducted through tracking the sequence of changes in the nervous system that happens during the voluntary to an obsessive intake of the substance. It is associated with tolerance and craving of the drugs. When it comes to drug tolerance, the person keeps on using the substance to attain the desired effect. As mentioned above, these drugs are responsible for the production of a large amount of dopamine. But when the brain cells are repeatedly exposed to these dopamine surges, they can become less responsive to these signals. This change in the receptor molecule can fight drug tolerance and improve the battle of the individual against addiction. Talking about drug craving which is the extreme hunger to use drugs despite knowing its harmful effects, researchers relate this to being with the people, or at the place or other things that cause the addiction. Countering the memories of the drug abusers to seek out for these substances is the first step to reduce drug craving and potentially remove it.
When it comes to the second step, the researchers are trying to mobilize the two essential capacities of the brain. The first is its ability to self-repair some damage it incurs, and the second one is through plasticity which is the capacity of the brain to use other circuits, when there are disruptions in the neural circuits, to perform its function.
Depressant drugs like barbiturates and benzodiazepines are also used to manage some brain disorder caused by addiction. It is through making the neurons activate less. By doing this, the abuser can control for some time his or her ill-use of the substance. Hallucinogens are also used to block the release of dopamine which makes the person excited to use drugs. However, you must take note that using these drugs alone cannot help an abuser to change and recover. These substances must be taken along with other medications.
Aside from drug medications, behavioral and cognitive therapy has also been proven to be effective. It is usually conducted after an intense medication of the patient. In other cases, it is done together with the treatment. It can be an individual therapy or a group therapy depending on the needs of the client. They can also choose to be an inpatient or an outpatient.
Highly qualified addiction counselors also play an important role here. Their skills are significant in improving the behavior of the abusers that will help them quit from using drugs. Continuous monitoring and follow-up are also required in the process to be sure about the full recovery of the individual.
Other Factors Related to Addiction Affecting the Brain
Drugs enter the body in various ways. Knowing this is very important because it has something to do on how fast the substance will affect you as well as how long you will feel the effects. It can be direct injection or introduction to the blood, through inhalation wherein the drugs enter the body system through the lungs and nasal membranes, or it can also be through eating where the substance gets into the body through the usual process of digestion. Among the three ways, injection has the fastest and longest result, while digestion has the slowest effects.
Diagnosing brain disease caused by addiction is also essential. However, despite the advances in technology when it comes to health and the different tools, equipment and procedures that can be used to treat the disorders, most of these are underutilized not because of socioeconomic factors, but because of mental issues. Some do not know that they are already under drug addiction until they feel the serious effects in the central nervous system.
That is why being well-informed about this health condition is vital. Instances of being exposed to substance abuse must be avoided as much as possible. Remember that nobody is in control of your life but you. It means that you must be responsible for your decisions. The influence of friends and peers is very strong that if they offer you to use these drugs, there are greater chances that you will accept it. Yes, you can say that you will use it only once, but who knows if you will get addicted to it because some drugs are highly addictive even if you used it just for once.
Your brain is intelligent and so must be you as an individual, as a family member and as a part of the community. Taking drugs that will damage this core component of your system must never be part of your life. While some use it because they may be ignorant of its harmful effects, you must not be one of them because surely you will regret it in the end.
Living a healthy life is very important, and with the different aspects of it, having a well mental state can lead you to the right direction. It will affect the physical, emotional and social factors as well. The brain serves as the steering wheel of your body and along the way you can encounter several crossings and detours called drugs. Do not be deceived to take the wrong way because surely it will be a dead-end.
When in doubt or confused about the drugs, always ask the experts. Their knowledge and skills will enlighten you on how to use these substances to your advantage. Your brain is a complex system which is why extreme care when it comes to substances that can affect it is expected from you. Keep in mind that addiction will do you no good. All the pleasures and enjoyment you may get from it are just illusions because the reality is you are slowly ruining your life. Well, do not let this happen.
Always be equipped with the details and ideas that will help you keep away from drug addiction that will harm your brain. Reading some magazines or articles about different mental issues that are related to substance abuse is also a good idea. Aside from this, using the internet is also a very efficient way. Different health sites will help you stay updated. These are just a few clicks away from your computer. An essential factor to consider here is how to have a healthy lifestyle because you will not be dealing with any of these addiction cases in the first place if you know how to take care of yourself.