Effects of Drug Addiction on the Brain

Effects of Drug Addiction on the Brain

Drug addiction can have a severe and lasting impact on one’s entire body, but perhaps most intensely affected is the brain. In fact, drugs can cause intense changes to the brain within mere minutes of entering the body.

Lasting Effects on the Brain

The entire brain is negatively impacted by drug addiction. The brain has many different parts, all of which have specific tasks to complete.

All addictive drugs signal the brain’s pleasure receptors. In other words, once a person takes drugs, the dopamine levels increase, which makes the act of taking drugs feel pleasurable. However, every time the dopamine receptors get tripped, the brain reduces synapse activity. As the pleasure receptors get overrun, the more drugs a person takes, and the more they need to take to get the same effect. This dangerous behavior can lead to abusers constantly seeking the next high, as they fight through the tolerance they’ve built up. Should a person continue to take drugs, the brain will adjust to the repeated drug use. That’s why people who abuse drugs eventually feel the exact opposite of their previous euphoric high: eventually, they’ll get more and more depressed as they repeatedly try to get back to a normal state of dopamine function.

Once the brain gets used to the drug in the body, brain areas that are responsible for judgment, learning, and memory may be intensely affected. Major changes in brain circuits, neurons, and neurotransmitters can have tremendous impacts on the brain’s long-term health, resulting in possible issues with cognitive functioning, memory systems, or habit. New behaviors associated with the drug addiction may become hard wired in the brain as a result of the drug abuse.

Potential Co-Occurring Disorders

People who struggle with drug addiction often experience a co-occurring disorder, otherwise known as a “dual disorder.” Many mental health illnesses are discovered in chemically dependent people. In fact, a larger number of patients with mental illness also have issues with substance abuse. These co-occurring disorders can range from mood-related disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder, to anxiety-related disorders such as anxiety, panic, or social disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Occasionally, co-occurring disorders can range from major thought disorders that deal with severe hallucinations, such as schizophrenia.

While co-occurring disorders can sometimes be hard for practitioners to diagnose, some typical patterns of co-occurrence show that one aspect of the dual disorder may seem to get worse or seem resistant to treatment. In other words, mental health issues may get worse if the person is secretly abusing drugs; similarly, substance abuse issues that seem treatment-resistant is also a common dual disorder pattern.

But Advantage Mental Health Center can help.

How AMHC Can Help

As we’ve shown above, addiction is a brain disease, not a result of weakness. People from any age or background can develop an addiction. And in much the same way that a person with cancer would seek treatment at a hospital, people come to us for treatment, so they can begin the journey to take back their lives. We have many tools and treatments to help you on your path to recovery.

Our addiction and recovery services encompass many kinds of treatments, such as medically assisted treatment; Advantage Mental Health licensed physicians can prescribe medications to ease the physical side of withdrawal and reduce cravings. We’ll combine medically assisted treatment with the heart of AMHC: one-on-one counseling or group counseling with our compassionate and licensed therapists, so that patients can learn to overcome negative thought patterns attributed to their substance issues. In therapy, patients will also learn skills to cope with stress, relationships, and triggers. Just as no two people are alike, no two treatment plans are alike.

At Advantage Mental Health Center, we will help create a treatment plan that’s right for you, by treating the whole person.