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The brain is easily the most complicated organ in the body. It is the center of all human activity: that includes basic functions, thoughts, emotions, memories, and responses. It allows you to do your everyday activities. It even controls all involuntary movements, so you don’t have to consciously think about making your heart beat. This way, you can focus on the things you need to do.
This mass of gray and white matter is made up of many different parts that all work together to coordinate specific functions. When someone abuses a drug, they disrupt these delicate functions.
Drug Abuse and the Brain: What are the Effects of Addiction?
Drug abuse affects different areas of the brain such as the brain stem, the cerebral cortex, and the limbic system. This causes a lot of different effects, ranging from distorted behavior to drug addiction.
Consider this: drug abuse affects the brain stem which controls functions such as your heart rate and your breathing. Imagine what kind of damage it can cause if you continuously take large doses of a certain substance. Addiction can cause permanent damage.
The cerebral cortex, which is divided into areas that control certain functions, is also damaged. This is partially responsible for why addicted individuals have difficulty processing different information that’s presented to them. The cerebral cortex allows you to think, plan, and solve problems—imagine losing those abilities due to drug use.
Finally, the limbic system contains the brain’s reward circuit. It controls and regulates our ability to feel pleasure. Pleasure motivates us to repeat behaviors that make us feel good, and also activities that are critical to our existence. Examples of pleasurable activities include eating and socializing.
When a person takes drugs, they instantly feel euphoric—but through artificial means. Drugs affect the reward center of our brain, causing us to get hooked after taking significant amounts. This is also why many drugs have mood-altering properties.
By taking drugs recreationally, a person disrupts billions of neurons, or nerve cells. It limits their ability to regulate and coordinate what we think, feel, and do.
And as we all know, addiction affects more than a person’s brain. Its adverse effects damage the body too. But why do people keep taking drugs anyway? It’s all because of the neurotransmitter called dopamine.
Dopamine is present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, motivation, and pleasure. When drugs are taken, the system is over-stimulated and more euphoric effects are created because the brain is flooded by dopamine. The drugs tap into the brain’s communication system, ensuring that the user will repeat this activity over and over again—simply because it feels good.
As bad as this may sound, it is still possible to recover from an addiction. But it needs to be done properly. Drug abuse quickly creates dependence in the user, making them reliant on the substance in order to feel good. Not only that, it will cause severe withdrawal if the dependent individual suddenly stops taking the drug.
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It is dangerous to try and quit a drug on your own, especially if you’ve been taking it for a long time. Withdrawal can be fatal. At the very least, it can still cause you to relapse.
It’s necessary to go through rehab: the combination of medical detox and behavioral therapy may correct the issues caused by drug use. Your symptoms will be managed while drug intake is gradually lowered. You will also learn how to control your cravings. This is the safest way to do it: with the help of medical professionals.
It’s not too late to get better. Look for an addiction treatment facility near you today!