Substance Abuse Toll on the Brain

Posted: January 4, 2016 by

substance abuse causes in the brain


The human brain is the most complex organ in the body. This three-pound lump of gray matter serves as the literal center of the human nervous system, the hub of motor control, and the seat of thought, emotion, behavior, and artistic expression. We need our brain to translate the information we receive from our sensory organs, perform fine motor functions, build, create, and enjoy. The human brain controls most of the body’s functions, and enables us to respond to everything that we experience.

The human brain consists of various parts that all work together. But drugs can obstruct the parts of our brains which are essential for life-sustaining processes. Long-term substance abuse leads to changes in the brain’s chemical circuits and systems. Studies of the brain of an addicted individual indicate alterations in brain chemistry that cause subtle shifts in judgment, decision-making, memory, learning, and behavior. These changes in the brain encourage the person to compulsively abuse alcohol and/or drugs.

How Drugs Work

Certain active chemical ingredients in drugs bind to neurotransmitter receptors, hampering the brain’s ability to send and receive chemical signals and process information. These chemicals mimic the brain’s natural chemical messengers and stimulate the “pleasure circuits.”

When the person continues to abuse illicit drugs, the brain adjusts to the presence of drugs and generates less dopamine in response to the drug’s signals. This decrease means that the pleasurable physiological effects of drugs will be lessened. The individual needs to take progressively higher and higher doses of the substance in question get the suitably high levels of dopamine that they’re used to. The human brain structures itself to crave the drug and the dopamine high, and programs the user to seek out further sources of the drug, often at the expense of all other activities.

Substance Abuse Treatment

Due to the subtle yet sinister changes which protracted drug abuse wreaks on the brain, it’s almost impossible for a person to stop using drugs of their own accord. Fortunately, there are addiction treatment programs that help individuals to properly remedy the effects of substance addiction and regain control over their life. Professional studies show that the combination of addiction treatment programs and behavioral therapy is the best way to give substance abuse patients a chance of successful recovery. Treatment programs that are customized to fit each patient’s personality and history are the key to building a life free of drugs or alcohol.

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