There are many individuals around the world who realize that their alcohol and drug addiction or abuse is negatively affecting their lives. They see how it destroys relationships and causes untold pain to their family and friends. Over the years, they have watched as their drug addiction negatively affected their health, their ability to get employment and their prospects for the future. They want to quit. But something that they and their families understand is that just wanting to quit drugs is not enough. Why? It has a lot to do with what researchers have discovered about the way that drugs affect the human brain.
How the Brain Functions
The human brain by sending messages from one neuron to another. As the message travels from neuron to neuron, the message is being converted from an electronic signal to a chemical signal. These chemical signals are transmitted by neurotransmitters. One of the major neurotransmitters that humans have is dopamine.
The way the synapses works is that one neuron will send a message that in turn causes dopamine or another neurotransmitter to be released in the brain. This dopamine then will serve as a conduit to transmit information to receiving neurons that are nearby.
Drugs Effect on the Brain
Drugs work by modifying the way that the synapses transmits information. They alter the way that neurons interact and communicate with each other. For example, some drugs are designed to increase the amount of neurotransmitters that are released. In most instances, they are dopamine.
Cocaine is able to affect the brain because it binds itself to the dopamine transporters and the brain. Cocaine prevents that transporter from absorbing dopamine. As a result, there is excess dopamine in the synaptic space because the dopamine transporters are not absorbing it. When the synapses has excessive amounts of dopamine, the receiving neurons increase the electrical signal that they generate.
Nicotine has a different effect. It will activate the acetylcholine receptors in the brain. In doing this, it increases the neutral firing of the acetylcholine receptors. Over time, this constant interruption and modifying of the brain’s communication methods has permanent effects.
Methamphetamines are so toxic that if a high enough dose is taken, just one dose is enough to permanently damage the parts of the brain that produce dopamine. This is according to research that has been done by The National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The way a drug is introduced to the body will affect the brain in different ways. For drugs to have the quickest effect, they must either be inhaled or injected into the body. When a person snorts a drug or if they take it in pill form, it is going to take a lot longer for the drug to have any effect on the brain.
The Long Road to Recovery
When a person has a drug addiction or consistently abuses drugs, their brain begins to acclimate itself to the drug. The brain creates workarounds that are designed to allow it to continue to function even though these drugs are present in the brain. Once an individual recovers from a drug addiction or stops abusing drugs, the brain cannot automatically switch back to the way that it functioned prior to the drug abuse. Researchers have seen that in many cases when even one year after drug addiction has stopped, the individual’s brain doesn’t work the same as the brain of an individual who has never taken drugs.
Understanding the way that the drug abuse physically alters the brain may help an individual battling drug addiction or their loved ones see why breaking the cycle of addiction is so hard. Thankfully, there is help. Over the years we have developed effective methods for helping individuals break free from their drug addiction. If you or someone you love is battling with addiction, contact us and let us help and support you through this recovery from drug addiction.