Drugs And The Brain

The brain is incredibly intricate. One of the fascinating aspects of the brain is its capability to create new synaptic pathways at any time in one’s life. A significant amount of these pathways are created during one’s first several years of life. The pathways do have the ability to shift, and new synaptic connects can always be created, resulting in new pathways.  A simple, non-drug related example of this is teaching oneself a foreign language. The introduction of an unheard, foreign language will be a new experience. Though at birth each individual has the propensity to learn any language he or she is exposed to, one’s brain will develop whatever language he or she most frequently hears.

Areas Of The Brain

The three most widely affected areas of a substance-abused brain are the brain stem, the limbic system, and the cerebral cortex. These three areas are, respectively, responsible for preforming and managing specific functions. When an individual abuses a substance it will interfere with these areas and has the propensity to create, possibly permanent, significant and unhealthy brain alterations.

The brain stem is an area of the brain, located at the base of one’s brain. The brainstem is basically in charge of everything one’s body does to keep it alive. It connects the spinal cord to the large part of the brain (the cerebrum). This allows information regarding everything that goes on below the neck to be transferred to one’s brain. The ingestions of certain drugs, in addition to the quantity and frequency of ingestion will interfere with one’s brain stem’s ability for accurate communication.

The limbic system is the area of one’s brain that holds the reward and pleasure circuit. All individuals are programed to repeat behaviors that create pleasure in one’s body and/or mind. One’s limbic system is typically triggered by life-sustaining activities (i.e. socializing, eating, exercise…etc.). The limbic system is also, however, activated by the ingestion of drugs and/or alcohol. This area of the brain is also liable for one’s own perception of other positive and/or negative emotions. This, in turn, can create irrational emotional responses in drug and/or alcohol addicted individuals.

The cerebral cortex is the third most affected area of one’s brain when he or she has abused drugs and/or alcohol. This area is actually split up into different sections, each responsible for processing the intake of one’s varied senses. This allows individuals to experience each of the senses: taste, hear, feel and see. Additionally, the forebrain, also known as the frontal cortex, is what allows each individual to have the ability to make decisions. The frontal cortex also is in charge of one’s abilities to process problems through thinking, planning and solving.  Due to the fact that this is one of the three most affected areas in individuals who abuse substances, these innate functions will be altered. This can manifest in one’s inability to make sound decisions. This can also shift one’s perception of his or her various senses. An individual abusing drugs, for example, may taste foods differently than he or she experienced when not using drugs.

The brain is an incredibly intricate and complex organ. As previously described, the brain is what regulates one’s basic body functions. It also oversees one’s mental and emotional state. The brain provides one’s ability to process everything that is presented in one’s environment. It is the tool that is utilized to shape one’s thoughts and feel one’s own emotions. Put simply, the brain is one’s own unique machine that acts as one’s motherboard. It is made up of many different areas, each responsible for coordinating and/or performing a specific function.  Introducing drugs into this delicate machine, is essentially throwing a wrench into it. Drugs have the propensity to alter important, life-sustaining functions in one’s brain, creating detrimental long-term and/or short-term effects.

Additional Information

Substance use disorder can be a terminal disease. It is imperative for an individual struggling with substance abuse and/or addiction to seek the proper treatment. The detoxification process, the first medical process an addicted individual is required to go through, can be exceedingly dangerous, depending on the abused substance. The toll foreign substances have the propensity to take on both one’s physical body and mind are immense. Support and guidance through treatment will increase the probability of a successful recovery.


Alo House

Alo House

We believe trust, meaningful connections, and kindness are the essentials to beginning a journey in recovery.We are dedicated to providing an honest, authentic, and genuine treatment environment that gives our clients a unique opportunity for healing.
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