How Are Drugs Affecting My Body and Brain?

 Many individuals do not fully realize the risks of drug use. In addition to the short-term impact, drug use can have several adverse effects on the structure of individuals' brains and their ability to function. Drug use can even cause several chronic physical conditions. On the one hand, knowing these effects is not always enough to stop substance use due to the chronic nature of addiction. However, on the other hand, many decide to seek treatment upon learning of these harmful effects.

If someone is struggling with addiction, they should consider learning more about the effects of substance use. It may not open their eyes immediately, but education and intervention are sometimes the first crucial steps toward a life of recovery. To seek treatment, reach out to NorthStar Transitions today. Treatment is possible, but each individual must take the first step.

What You Need to Know About Drugs

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as a "chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences." As mentioned, this chronic nature prevents people from being able to stop despite their knowledge of harmful consequences, such as the damaging effects of drug use.

There are many reasons people turn to drug use. Sometimes individuals want to have fun and feel good or experiment because of peer pressure. Others turn to drug or alcohol use as a form of self-medication. These people are most likely trying to cope with past trauma or mental illness. They self-medicate because they do not have access to proper resources or knowledge of healthy coping mechanisms.

Additionally, the NIDA indicates that drugs "excite the parts of the brain that make you feel good." Over time, individuals begin to crave this feeling. Since the body adapts to drugs, individuals must take more to experience the same effects. This is called tolerance.

There are many risks associated with different substances. However, the longer one struggles with untreated addiction, the greater the risk of experiencing more adverse effects.

Understanding the Risks of Drug Use

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) describes the risks of drug use as they pertain to each specific substance:

  • Cocaine is involved in one in five overdose deaths. Some long-term effects include asthma, bowel decay, and the risk of HIV.
  • Methamphetamine, or meth, can cause death during someone's first time using it. However, long-term use can cause anxiety, confusion, insomnia, paranoia, and aggression.
  • Prescription and illicit opioids are highly addictive and a top cause of overdose deaths. They can cause confusion, nausea, and, in more severe cases, coma or brain damage.
  • Marijuana is legal in several states and commonly used by many individuals. However, marijuana use can lead to brain damage, decrease mental health, and affect one's ability to function daily.

These are just some of the many drug-related risks individuals may experience. However, understanding them can encourage individuals to seek treatment and live a life of recovery.

Drugs and the Brain

The NIDA states that drugs affect how neurons in the brain send, receive, and process signals. Many substances, like marijuana and heroin, trigger responses that mimic natural transmitters. When the body is exposed to artificially stimulating drugs, it creates an unnatural reaction that causes individuals to crave more than their bodies can naturally produce.

Additionally, drug use affects all parts of the brain. Significant parts of the brain affected by excessive substance use include:  

  • The extended amygdala creates feelings of anxiety and uneasiness. These feelings respond to a drug-induced high and motivate further drug use.
  • The basal ganglia are the parts of the brain responsible for motor and fundamental functions. It is also a reward circuit for the brain. When the basal ganglia are routinely exposed to drugs, it makes it more difficult to experience pleasure naturally.
  • The prefrontal cortex is responsible for cognitive functions like critical thinking and problem-solving. It influences impulse control and is the last part of the brain to develop, which is why drug use at an early age is hazardous.

Drugs and the Body

As mentioned, different drugs have unique risks. Some of the physical harms of drug use include:

  • An increase in risky behavior, such as unprotected sex, driving under the influence or committing acts of violence
  • Damage to organs and body systems, notably the throat, stomach, lungs, liver, pancreas, heart, and nervous system
  • Various types of cancer
  • Infectious diseases from shared injection equipment
  • Acne and skin lesions if drugs make one pick or scratch at one's skin

These are just some potential physical risks of drug use.

We hope that understanding these risks encourages individuals to seek treatment. However, we realize further interventions are sometimes required. Reach out to learn more about our treatment programs or seek treatment today.

There are several short and long-term effects of drug use. It is vital for individuals struggling with substance use disorder to learn of these risks. We hope that understanding the risks motivates people to seek treatment. However, we fully recognize that recovery is not as simple as education on substance use's downfalls. Due to its chronic nature and the physical changes drugs have on the brain, individuals can become dependent on substances. Some substances are so dangerous that they can cause harmful effects like coma, brain damage, or fatality on the first try. Call (303) 558-6400 today to learn more about how drugs affect your brain and body or to inquire about treatment. 

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