Within the past month, over 25 million people in the United States have used an illicit drug. Drug abuse of any kind can have serious side effects, especially on your brain. That is why it is important to realize just how dangerous these drugs are to your brain, and how they impair cognitive function.
Drugs impact memory
The brain is the most complex organ in the body. Therefore, it is essential that all of its parts are functioning correctly, and nothing is out of place. Drugs throw the body off guard in several ways, and one of the side effects is an impaired memory. This can happen as a result of these drugs changing the number of chemicals that the body produces. Certain chemicals are involved in memory, and once the balance is thrown off, drug-users may experience difficulty recalling events.
It is not only an unbalance in the number of chemicals that the body produces which affects memory loss. Drugs can indirectly impact memory by causing its users depression, stress, and lack of sleep. All of these factors have been shown to have the potential to impair memory. Some of the brain damage from drug abuse can become permanent.
Drugs impede decision making
A lot goes into making even the simplest of decisions, multiple parts of your brain have to be in sync and communicate with each other to determine the best course of action. However, individuals who use drugs put themselves and others at risk due to their potentially waning decision making. There are multiple ways that drugs can impact decision making.
First of all, there are several parts of the brain, most notably the frontal lobe that are involved in decision making, many drugs (especially cocaine and ecstasy) negatively impact these areas of the brain over time. The result is a lowered ability to make decisions.
Another way that drugs influence decision making is through regulating the chemical dopamine. Whenever this natural chemical is impacted by drugs, the users experience a reduced level of decision making, as well as difficulty processing information.
Brain Damage from Drug Abuse especially affects adolescents
An unfortunate statistic found that over 40 percent of all teenagers interviewed had used a drug before. The impact that drugs have on teens is different than that for adults. Because adolescent’s brains are still developing, drugs have the potential to wreak havoc on the brain and cause permanent damage. The potential for the brain damage from drug abuse to become permanent is much higher in teens.
During the stages of adolescence, different parts of the brain develop at different rates, the parts of the brain that control decision making and reasoning are still not fully developed, this means that if adolescents take drugs it could permanently render the brain in an underdeveloped state, as well as make it more difficult to break away from drug use.
Drugs interfere with your rewards system
Whenever you perform a behavior that gets rewarded, your brain responds in a positive way to this and is likely to do it again. The chemical that regulates rewards is known as dopamine. Most drugs work in a way that interferes with the amount of dopamine that the body produces. In doing so, they teach your brain to believe that it is being rewarded by taking the drug.
This is why it can be so difficult to break people off of drugs because their reward systems are so used to taking in the drug and having their dopamine levels spiked. Eventually, the heightened sense due to using drugs means that other activities that used to be fun no longer have the same level of pleasure that they did before. This is why so many people that use drugs are depressed, and feel as if they can’t live without the drug.
Drugs can change your behavior
We have already seen how drugs can impact your behavior in regards to the brain and its functions. However, drugs can also influence your brain in such a way that it affects everyday behavior. Some of the other effects of brain damage from drug abuse include:
- First of all, drugs can impact your energy level. This means that the only way you feel energetic is if you take the drug.
- Drugs can also influence how you think. Examples would be failing to complete the usual tasks that you can complete at your job, or suffering a decrease in your grades at school.
- Drugs have the potential to make people especially susceptible to mood swings.
- Additionally, drugs can easily lead to depression, after the initial effects of the drug dissipate and people realize what they have gotten into, but feel they can do nothing about it.
These are just some of the risks associated with taking drugs. Hopefully, you learned more about the dangerous consequences of taking any drug, and how it could impact the brain. If you or a loved one are worried about brain damage from drug abuse, reach out for help and end your addiction.