How The Brain’s Control Center Is Affected By DrugsThe brain is an incredible organ. Amazingly complex, and the control center for your entire body, the brain makes it possible for you to do everything that you do – from riding a bicycle, to speaking, to contemplating your existence. Yet the brain, for all of its strengths, is not immune to the environment around it. What you put in your body has a major effect on the function of your brain, particularly drugs.To understand how the brain is affected by drugs, it is necessary to understand the three basic components of the brain:
- The Brain Stem – Located at the base of the brain, the brain stem is the most basic part of the brain. It controls your breathing and your heart rate.
- The Cerebral Cortex – This is composed of four major areas, each of which process and control different functions. The cerebral cortex processes information from your senses, and allows you to think, solve problems and plan.
- The Limbic System – This is where the reward center for the brain is located. The reward system is designed to encourage beneficial behaviors. When you are pulled towards calorie dense foods, or towards someone romantically, the reward system releases pleasurable sensations. These sensations are supposed to lead you to take actions necessary for the survival of the species.
What Happens When You Take DrugsEach part of the brain must communicate with other parts of the brain, which is where drug abuse really begins to impact the function of the brain. The limbic system in particular is affected, as it is most immediately impacted by the intake of the drug. While each drug may act differently in the brain, all drugs will interfere with this communication system.Some drugs, such as heroin, will mimic existing neurotransmitters to activate neurons. Other drugs, like stimulants, will cause the neurons in your brain to produce larger amounts of neurotransmitters than they normally would. Regardless of the drug, the way your brain normally communicates – and drives your behavior, is impacted.
Continued Use And AddictionWhile the brain is quite adaptable, and will recover from disruptions the best it can, ongoing use of a substance can significantly alter the way the brain works. If the drug causes a large release of dopamine, for instance, the brain will stop producing as much on its own.When the drug is no longer taken, the brain will continue to produce less dopamine than normal for a certain period of time. Without the dopamine, you will feel more lethargic, less motivated, and less pleasure from everyday experiences.In a way, addiction is training your brain to seek drugs. You are wired to seek rewards for survival. When you teach your brain that the drug is rewarding, it is only natural for it to seek out that reward continuously.
Moving Beyond AddictionFortunately, you can reprogram your brain. Rehabilitation will help you teach your brain to focus on healthy, beneficial rewards. It may take some time, but you can begin leading a normal life again. If you are ready to begin your journey to recovery, please contact us now. We are ready to help you get your life back.
- DrugFacts: Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction, National Institute on Drug Abuse, November 2012, http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction
- Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction, National Institute on Drug Abuse, http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain
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