How Do Drugs Affect The Brain: 7 Important Points To Know

How do drugs affect the brain? The brain is affected by drugs in many ways. These drugs interfere with the function of neurons1. They affect the process of sending, receiving, and processing messages sent by the neurons with the help of neurotransmitters2. The brain is a very important part of the body it regulates various functions like maintaining the body temperature and enhancing pleasure-giving activities.

Some drugs look like natural neurotransmitters of the body in their chemical structure so that they can activate the neurons. These drugs are heroin and marijuana. But as they are not the natural neurotransmitter they are not able to produce the right chemical and right message which will lead to abnormal messages sent to the body.

Some other drugs will lead to the abnormal function of neurons. These drugs affect the neurons so that they will release large amounts of neurotransmitters abnormally and also avoid normal recycling by interfering in the transportation of the brain chemicals.

These drugs are cocaine and amphetamine. These drugs also affect the normal communication between the neurons. These drugs will also affect the central nervous system and limbic system. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. They will also cause drug addiction.

1. Brain

The brain is a part of the Central Nervous System (CNS3). Various drugs will affect the brain. Those drugs hurt the functioning of the brain. We will study how drugs affect the brain in this article.

The function of the brain, parts of the brain that are affected by the drugs, mechanism of drug functioning, drug abuse, drugs prescribed by the doctor, reasons for addiction to drugs, and addiction treatment plan for drug abuse are listed below:  

1.1. Functioning Of Brain

The brain is made up of millions of cells known as neurons or nerve cells. They all are organized in a way that they will form a circuit and a network. Every neuron helps in transferring the message from one neuron to another. The brain works along with the spinal cord and they are a part of the central nervous system.

Neurotransmitters are released to share some information in the gap of the neurons known as the synapse. As the neurotransmitter crosses the gap it will stick to the receptor present on the next neuron and hence the information reaches its target site. There are various types of research are going on by the national institute on different parts of the brain.

2. Parts Of The Brain Affected By Drug Use

Drugs affect the important parts of the brain which are necessary for the body’s functions. They will affect the brain circuits. They will create communication between the neurons or alter the messages sent to the target sites. These drugs will also affect the hormones of the brain. 

We have heard many times that drugs will affect the brain but the question arises how do drugs 4affect the brain and which part of the brain is affected by drugs these parts are as follows:

2.1. Basal Ganglia

This is an important part of the brain which is involved in maintaining positive thoughts and motivation. It also plays an important part in maintaining the daily healthy activities of the body like socializing, eating, and playing.

This part is involved in forming and maintaining the habits and routines of the person. This part of the brain forms the brain’s reward circuitry. It is the key node of that circuitry. Drugs also affect this area of the brain. You have to know how drugs affect the brain, especially this part of the brain.

Drugs over-activate this area by producing euphoria in a high amount the first time exposure. However, due to repeated exposure, the part of the brain adapts to its presence. The area becomes habitual of that drug.

This drug diminishes all the sensitivity of this part so that it will not feel pleasure from anything other than that drug. They will cause drug dependence. Addiction treatment is needed by the person addicted to this drug.

2.2 Extended Amygdala

This part of the brain plays an important role in maintaining stressful feelings such as anxiety levels, unease, depression, and irritability feeling. When the person takes any drug this type is stressful feeling is reduced due to the inactivation of this part of the brain.

So when the person comes across the same situation of stress next time, then they want to take the drug again which will suppress the extended amygdala so the feeling of stress is reduced and it will show withdrawal symptoms.

This circuit will become addicted to the drug and sensitivity to it will be increased by excessive drug use. After some time the drug will cause some disorders in the brain. Because they are only providing temporary relief from the stress but they are damaging the brain.

2.3 Prefrontal Cortex

It is a part of the brain which is located in the frontal lobe. This part of the human brain plays an important role in thinking and problem-solving ability. They also help in decision-making, planning, and self-control. It plays a major role in the personality development of an individual.

If the person uses the drug will lose self-control and impulse control is reduced. Over the period, changes are observed in the person’s behaviour. The person is not able to think properly and make the right decision for him.

There will be a communication gap between the synapses 5of the neurons due to which proper information should not reach the target site.

2.4 Brain Stem

It is present at the bottom and it looks like a stalk. It is that part of the brain which connects the brain to the spinal cord. There are some drugs that will damage the brain stem. These will control the important functions of the body like maintaining the breathing rate, heart rate, and sleeping.

An overdose of the drugs may lead to death. The drug which causes damage to this organ is opioid drugs.

2.5 Cerebral Cortex

It is the outer part of the brain. It is divided into four areas which are known as lobes. These lobes regulate different functions of the brain.

Drug use will affect this part of the brain and cause damage to the lobes, so they cannot perform their function well.

3. How Do Drugs Affect The Brain Functioning

We have to know what the functioning of the and how drugs affect the brain. These drugs will interfere with the functioning of the brain by affecting the activity of neurotransmitters.

The neurotransmitters carry two types of messages one is inhibitory messages and the other is excitatory messages. The drugs will also cause two types of effects. These are agonistic and antagonistic effects.

Agonistic drugs increase the activity of the message carried by the neurotransmitters if the neurotransmitter is carrying an inhibitory message then it becomes more inhibitory and if it is carrying an excitatory message then it will become more excitatory.

Antagonistic drugs are those drugs that interfere with the activity of neurotransmitters. So due to that interference either the neurotransmitters will completely lose the effects and messages or the effects and the messages will be altered.

4. Drug Abuse

It is also known as substance abuse. Taking drugs in an excessive amount that is not prescribed by the doctor is harmful to the body and is known as drug abuse. Various addictive drugs will cause drug addiction in the person.

The person will have an intense craving for taking drugs. It will cause substance use disorder. There are many drug abuse websites.

Substance abuse can cause many health-related problems in the body. There are many treatment centres for treating patients who are suffering from drug abuse. People don’t know how drugs affect the brain. 

5. Drugs Prescribed By The Doctors

Some drugs are prescribed by doctors for treatment but without a prescription consumption of those drugs is illegal. Some drugs are used for treatment but some drugs are not good for the brain. We have to know how drugs affect the brain. These drugs are as follows:

5.1. Opioids

Many prescription opioids are used to reduce the powerful pain. These drugs are morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. Your body has opioid drug receptors which are known as opioid receptors.

These receptors are a group of inhibitory G proteins which are coupled with the receptors with opioids as the ligand.

5.2. Amphetamines

Some prescription amphetamines are used to treat diseases like obesity, hypersensitivity disorders, and narcolepsy. For treating diseases these are prescribed by the doctor and without a prescription they are illegal. The excess amount of this drug will damage the brain’s activity.

5.3. Stimulates

Some stimulant drugs are used to treat some disorders like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders. These drugs will increase energy levels and physical and mental alertness.

The two most widely used stimulates which are prescribed by doctors are Dexedrine and Adderall.

5.4. Sedatives

Some prescription sedatives are used as central nervous system depressants. These sedatives are used to treat anxiety, aggressive behaviour, dizziness, suicidal thoughts, and depression. Its excessive amount will lead to toxic effects. Gamma-aminobutyric acid is also a neurotransmitter that is used to treat anxiety.

There are some sedatives which are prescribed by the doctor are Xanax, Ativan, and Valium. These sedatives will show some withdrawal symptoms like nausea, increased blood pressure, hallucinations, and seizures. These are also some hallucinogenic drugs that will reduce hallucinations for a particular time.

5.5. Dopamine

Dopamine is the prescribed drug that is used to treat the disease like improper blood flow, and low blood pressure. Dopamine is an inotropic drug. Your body contains dopamine receptors in the central nervous system.

The function of these receptors and their hormones will regulate emotions, and movement and maintain the reward circuit. The neurotransmitter dopamine and its hormones collectively make the dopamine system. The receptors of dopamine will release the dopamine signal and maintain the dopamine levels.

5.6. Synthetic Marijuana

It is also known as cannabinoids. These drugs are used for the artificial secretion of chemicals and chemical messengers that will show effects similar to the effects of cannabis. According to the NIDA sites NIH, there are some effects shown by people after using this drug are hallucinations, anxiety, and euphoria.

6. Reasons For Addiction To Drugs

Excessive drug use will lead to addiction to drugs. It will damage our bodies in the same way as any virus will do. But there is a treatment provider who will help those people to come out of the situation. These reasons are listed below:

  • Teenagers will get into the habit of drugs from family members or friends. When they see them taking drugs or consuming alcohol they are more likely to try it. After some time they will get addicted to those drugs and they form a habit. These teenagers don’t know how drugs affect the brain.

  • People who are involved in some criminal activities are more likely to have an addiction to drugs.

  • People who are facing social issues, academic failure, or money crises will also develop this habit due to the mental pressure on them. They take them to release the mental pressure but they don’t know how drugs affect the brain.

7. Addiction Treatment Plans For Drug Abuse

Addiction to drugs is a chronic type of disease that will harm your brain. Excessive drug use will increase health-related disorders. It will make the person socially inactive and physically and mentally weak. These drugs interact with the receptors and the reward circuit of the brain and damage them. The person before addiction doesn’t know how drugs affect the brain.

This addiction is treatable, and there are treatment providers who will help the addicted persons stop using drugs. Addiction treatment is provided to the patients but they will also relapse after some time. So this will also mean that the persons should completely stop using drugs for the rest of their lives. The following treatments are used to treat drug addiction:

  • The person should get support from society and they will get behavioural counselling from the counsellors.

  • The proper medications should be provided to the patients.

  • There are many medical devices and equipment which are used to treat withdrawal symptoms.

  • Regular evaluation of the patient is necessary.

  • The mental health of the patient is also observed and evaluated so that if the patient is suffering from anxiety or depression will be treated.

  • The follow-up should be long-term so that the patient will completely come out of this drug addiction.

8. Final Note

This is a very important question how do drugs affect the brain? The central nervous system has two parts brain is one of them. The brain has grey and white matter.  In the grey areas functioning of the brain takes place whereas the white area provides communication between those grey areas.

They contain a lot of nerve cells. The nerve cells will transfer the message to the target cells. The brain maintains the various functions of the body to make the body feel normal. It maintains the body temperature and enhances pleasurable activities. 

The brain starts to get affected by the drugs. As the brain remembers the effects caused by the drug the brain loses its sensitivity toward other neurons. An excessive amount of drugs will damage the nerve cells.

Many drugs are illegal to use but these drugs are used to treat some diseases so they are prescribed by doctors. These drugs work in the treatment of diseases like obesity, and anxiety. There are various reasons why the person start to consume drugs and then it will become a habit for them and they will develop an addiction to drugs.

Addiction to drugs is caused by various reasons like peer pressure, social issues, and money crises. Various treatment centres have various treatment options for persons who are addicted to drugs. Proper medication and support from family and society will help the person in stopping drug consumption. Many national institutes are doing research on drugs and how these drugs are used as medicines.

9. Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How Do Drugs That Affect the Brain Work?

Drugs disrupt the way neurons send, receive, and process signals through neurotransmitters. Certain drugs, such as marijuana and heroin, can activate neurons because their chemical structure mimics that of the body’s natural neurotransmitter.

Q2. What Part of the Brain Controls Addiction?

Each substance has slightly different effects on the brain, but all addictive drugs, including alcohol, opioids and cocaine, produce a pleasurable surge of the neurotransmitter dopamine in a region of the brain called the basal ganglia; Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit messages between nerve cells.

Q3. What Drugs Release Dopamine in the Brain?

Research shows that the most commonly abused drugs (such as opiates, alcohol, nicotine, amphetamines, and cocaine) cause a neurochemical reaction that increases the amount of dopamine released by neurons in the brain’s reward centre.

Drug Abuse Statistics The United States
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Priyanshi Sharma

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