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 Affected by Addiction
The three most widely affected areas of a substance-addicted brain are the:
- Brain stem
- Limbic system
- Cerebral cortex
These three areas are responsible for preforming and managing specific functions. When an individual misuses a substance, it will interfere with these areas and has the tendency to create, possibly permanent, significant and unhealthy brain alterations.
1. 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.
2. 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 or mind. One’s limbic system is typically triggered by life-sustaining activities (e.g., socializing, eating, exercise).
The limbic system is also, however, activated by the ingestion of drugs or alcohol. This area of the brain is also responsible for one’s own perception of other positive or negative emotions.
This, in turn, can create irrational emotional responses in drug or alcohol addicted individuals.
3. The Cerebral Cortex is the third most affected area of one’s brain when a person has misused drugs 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:
Additionally, the forebrain, also known as the prefrontal cortex, is what allows each individual to have the ability to make decisions. The prefrontal 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 misusing drugs, for example, may taste foods differently than he or she experienced when not using drugs.
The Brain Controls Thoughts and Emotions
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, feelings, and 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 ability to alter important, life-sustaining functions in one’s brain, creating detrimental short-term and long-term effects.
Seek Help for Substance Use Disorder
Substance use disorder can be a terminal disease. It is imperative for an individual struggling with substance dependence or addiction to seek proper treatment.
The detoxification process, the first medical process an addicted individual is required to go through, can often be dangerous, depending on the misused substance. The toll foreign substances have the capacity 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.