Impact of Addiction on our Brain

What is Addiction? Addiction is where your brain is “programmed” to think that you need something and can not live without something when you really can. When you take a substance on a regular day-to-day basis, your brain will soon think that this should be a normal thing for the human body. When you go without the substance, your body will start to shut down and make you think you need it way more than you normally do, this is called withdrawal. The Brain and How it Works in Its Natural State The brain is the most important organ in your body.

The brain helps control many spectrums in your life. The cerebrum, which takes up eighty percent of the brain, controls the primary functions like emotions, body movement, learning and remembering vision, hearing, touch, and smell, thinking, and understanding and using language to communicate. The frontal lobes of the brain help with planning, organizing, and changing behavior to fit the environment around the body. The parietal lobes, which are right behind the frontal lobes, are responsible for helping the body recognize temperature, taste, smell and touch, shape, size and it is important for skills like reading and math. The temporal lobes, which are right above the ears, helps to process sounds like music and the understanding of language.

The occipital lobes are at the back of the brain, they help you see. The fifth lobe that is located deep inside the cerebrum is called the limbic lobe it includes the thalamus, which receives all senses except for the smell, and helps cognitive and motor functions. The basal ganglia, which is a group of neurons, are located deep beneath the cerebral cortex. The basal ganglia process information on movement and help determine the best possible response. The hypothalamus, located below the thalamus, helps to regulate sleep, body temperature, and hunger. The amygdala helps to manage emotions that deal with survival, fear, and memory.

Another part of the brain is the brain stem. The brain stem is essential to help maintain life. The brain stem controls the way the body breathes, the body’s heart rate and blood pressure, digestion, body temperature, and the reticular activating system, which makes the brain alert. (Gallo, F., Ph.D. (2015, October 16). How the Brain Reacts to Drugs Drugs can cause many effects and alter the brain in many ways that are necessary for life. The extended part of the amygdala plays a part in the body’s feelings of stress, anxiety, irritability, and unease. These same traits are exhibited after a drug high and cause the person to seek the drug again. This will become very sensitive with increased drug use.

Over a period of time, a person with a substance use disorder uses drugs to get temporary relief from the discomfort rather than to get high again. The basal ganglia are known as the brain’s “reward circuit.” Drugs can over-activate this circuit, causing the feeling of excitement of the drug high. When this exposure is repeated the circuit will adapt to the presence of the drug, which can make it hard to feel pleasure from anything other than the drug itself. When the body becomes excited or happy the prefrontal cortex is sent a signal.

The hippocampus will then record the memory of the event and the amygdala will create a response that encourages the body or person to repeat this behavior. When the prefrontal cortex shifts between “circuits,” it can make a person with a substance use disorder seek the drug repeatedly with little to no impulse control. Drugs can also produce pleasure in the brain. No one really understands why drugs give people pleasure or excitement. The body already has natural opioids (endorphins) and other neurotransmitters in parts of the basal ganglia or “reward circuit.” When you take certain drugs, it can cause surges of the neurotransmitters greater than the smaller bursts that are naturally produced.

The body produces dopamine which is a compound present in the body as a neurotransmitter. It is one of the chemicals responsible for transmitting signals between the nerve cells of the brain. Dopamine causes changes in the neural connectivity that make it easier to want to repeat the activity over and over again without realizing what the body is really doing, which can lead to addiction and bad habits. Drugs produce larger amounts of dopamine than what the body is used to normally which makes the body want it more. Large surges of dopamine show the brain that seeking the drug is a healthier goal and good activity to choose. (National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, July).

When drugs are abused it can stimulate two to ten times more dopamine to be released than anything else. Regular drug use can cause the brain to produce or transmit less dopamine which can result in a chemical imbalance in the brain. When the drugs are not being used, dopamine levels drop which can cause withdrawal symptoms and very powerful cravings. Addiction will most likely occur which leads to a loss of control over the number of drugs taken. Then the brain can no longer function normally without the drugs. (Drug Abuse and Chemical Imbalance in the Brain: Dopamine, Serotonin & More. (2018, October 14).

They are alcohol (wine and beer), depressants (tranquilizers, sedatives, and sleeping pills), stimulants (cocaine, caffeine, and nicotine), opiates (heroin, opium, and morphine), hallucinogens (marijuana, LSD, PCP), and inhalants (nitrous oxide and gasoline.) Stimulants include cocaine and amphetamines such as ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine. Caffeine which can be found in coffee, tea, soda, and over-the-counter drugs is also a stimulant along with nicotine. Nicotine is included because it has some stimulant properties and resembles stimulants with respect to withdrawal symptoms and cravings. All these stimulants increase the activity of a part of the sympathetic nervous system, which helps the body stay alert and produces the fight or flight reaction.

Cocaine acts directly on the brain cells by stimulating the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters. People who use cocaine eventually lose the ability to feel pleasurable sensations because the brain becomes tolerant to the effects it gives. Opiates are things like morphine, heroin, and endorphins, which are naturally produced in the brain. Opiates have many actions in the body. They can provide pain relief, relaxation and provide a sense of euphoria. Opiates can also cause the pupils to become constricted, provoke nausea, and are involved in the regulation of body temperature. Withdrawal from opiates can include symptoms such as cravings, muscle cramps, diarrhea, elevated temperature, and poor sleep.

Withdrawal can be treated by replacing the short half-life drug, like heroin, with a longer half-life drug, like methadone, and gradually tapering it off. Even when treating an opiate addiction there has always been a very high relapse rate. Hallucinogens are made up of natural and synthetic substances that can alter perception. The effects of marijuana can include relaxation, heightened senses, distortion of time sense, and mild euphoria, but when used in a higher dosage it can cause hallucinations, paranoia, and anxiety. The physical effects it can cause are an increase in heart rate, dry mouth, impaired coordination, and a delay in reaction time. Marijuana is shown to interact with the ventral tegmental area of the brain and is likely to have the same qualities as other addictive drugs.

PCP is included as a hallucinogen because its effects include distortions in perception and judgment. PCP is highly addictive and can cause a psychotic state that can last for prolonged periods of time. It can cause more serious agitation and aggressive behavior. The drug can cause profound stimulation of the brain and nystagmus, jerking movements of the eye, muscular rigidity, and seizures, as well as high fever, increases in blood pressure, and the destruction of muscle tissue. (Henderson, E. C. (2000) Short-Term and Long-Term Side Effects. The short-term and long-term effects of any drug vary in many ways, but psychoactive drugs have different chemical effects on the brain.

The short-term effects that can occur in drug users depend on the amount used, the potency, and whether it is mixed with any other substance. Drugs can impact a person’s thinking, mood, energy, and perception in many ways. They can impair motor functions, interfere with decisions, problem-solving, reduce inhibition, and cause many health problems physically. All hallucinogens may differ in short-term effects but overall, they show many of the same mind-changing effects. The short-term effects of a hallucinogen are things such as hallucinations, heart palpitations, dilated pupils, blurred vision, paranoia, tremors, impaired judgment, and motor control, and significant anxiety and or depression.

Using opiates can be particularly dangerous because they can often lead to respiratory depression. Some of the short-term side effects are nausea, itching skin, pinpoint pupils, slowed thinking and movements, attention problem, impaired memory, drowsiness, slurred speech, and even coma. Barbiturates, like phenobarbital, are prescription sedatives that can depress the central nervous system, induce sleep and reduce anxiety. They can have severe side effects and a risk of dependence. Users will more than likely take more than the amount prescribed or inject the drug to increase pleasure. The short-term effects of barbiturates can be mood swings, cognitive dysfunction, confusion, slurred speech, coma, and poor judgment. Inhalants are typically everyday household items like cleaning products, paint, and markers. Users of inhalants normally would inhale the chemicals through the mouth or nose, directly or from a soaked rag.

The short-term effects only last a few minutes and they are dizziness, lethargy, nausea, delusions, blurred vision, slurred speech, muscle weakness, delayed reflexes, coma, and tremors. Long-term drug abuse can have disastrous mental and physical health consequences. When abusing drugs, the body will soon start to adapt to the substance/s being taken. Physical dependence can develop which can cause unpleasant and sometimes deathly withdrawal symptoms once the person stops using the substance. Physical dependence is not the same as addiction, but persistent use may lead to an addiction. The long-term effects of a hallucinogen can be persistent psychosis, which is extreme psychotic symptoms that do not go away once intoxication wears off. These symptoms can include mood and visual disturbances, disorganized thought, and paranoia. Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder is another long-term side effect. It is shown by the re-experiencing of symptoms while under the influence.

They include hallucinations and visual disturbances. Hallucinogens can also have long-term side effects of memory impairment, sleep problems, an imbalance in hormone production, white matter damage to the brain, and decreased connectivity between the brain areas. Opiates can cause brain damage due to respiratory depression. Chronic opiate abuse can lead to deterioration of the white matter in the brain, which can impact regulation in behavior, stress response, and making decisions. Long-term effects of opiates can also include severe constipation, sexual dysfunction, irritation of the nasal lining, nasal bleeding, HIV, cellulitis, and infection of the heart lining.

Long-term consequences of barbiturates abuse resemble the consequences of alcoholism. Long-term effects of barbiturates include physical injury, assaults or fights, irritability, legal problems, slow pulse, low blood pressure, decreased respiratory rate, memory loss, and changes in alertness. Inhalants can be toxic and poisonous to the body and can lead to many severe health problems. The long-term effects can include liver damage, kidney damage, hearing loss, bone marrow damage, spasms in limbs, asthma, depression, and anxiety. (Watkins, M. (n.d.). Drugs can impair the body in many ways depending on what substance you take and how much of the substance you take. There are many parts of the brain that can be altered when addicted or abusing drugs. Short-term side effects can be very harmful but do not last as long as long-term effects do. Long-term effects can affect you for the rest of your life. There are many symptoms to short-term and long-term effects. The brain is very sensitive and fragile it can be altered in many ways and in some ways you cannot change.

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Impact of addiction on our brain. (2021, Nov 25). Retrieved December 7, 2021 , from
https://studydriver.com/impact-of-addiction-on-our-brain/

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