What drug addiction does to the brain?

Preface · Drug Misuse and Addiction · Health · Drug Abuse Prevention and. The more a person abuses a drug, the more they can continue to use it unless they get help to overcome a life-threatening addiction. Once the chemical has affected the brain, people can feel the physical symptoms and the chemical's impact on their entire nervous system. Symptoms may include a rapid heartbeat, paranoia, nausea, hallucinations, and other disturbing sensations over which the individual has little control.

They may be consumed by abusing the substance to maintain their habit no matter the cost. As a result of this powerful control of substance abuse, people can begin to act in unrecognizable ways; this can worry friends and family. Pulmonary complications and heart lining infections are additional long-term concerns surrounding the perpetual abuse of opioids. Even if they can resist drug or alcohol use for a while, at some point the constant desire caused by the many signs in their life can erode their determination and cause a return to substance use or a relapse.

It encourages drug addiction, keeping the individual in a cycle of ups and downs; the user may feel like they are on an emotional roller coaster ride, feeling hopelessness and depression without their substance of abuse. Repeated exposure to an addictive substance or behavior causes nerve cells in the nucleus accumulbens and the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain involved in planning and executing tasks) to communicate in a way that combines taste with desire, which in turn drives us to pursue it. Substance use disorders are the result of changes in the brain that can occur with repeated use of alcohol or drugs. However, if you have abused drugs or alcohol in the past or have family members who have abused drugs or alcohol, you may be at greater risk.

Drugs and addictive behaviors provide a shortcut and flood the brain with dopamine and other neurotransmitters. The American Society for Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as a disease that affects brain chemistry and circuits, which then leads to compulsive drug-seeking and using behaviors. Opioids are considered highly addictive, as ASAM reports that nearly a quarter of heroin users will suffer from opioid addiction. Scientists once believed that the experience of pleasure alone was enough to encourage people to continue searching for an addictive substance or activity.

Drug cravings, dependence and withdrawal symptoms, along with a loss of control over use, are signs of addiction. You can become addicted to alcohol, nicotine, sleep and anti-anxiety medications, and other legal substances. Signs in a person's routine or daily environment that have been linked to drug use due to changes in the reward circuit can cause uncontrollable cravings every time the person is exposed to these signs, even if the medication itself isn't available. In the 1930s, when researchers began investigating what caused addictive behavior, they believed that people who developed addictions were somehow morally flawed or lacked willpower.

People who develop an addiction often find that, over time, the desired substance no longer gives them as much pleasure.

Joanna Yanoff
Joanna Yanoff

Evil travel trailblazer. Certified food specialist. Extreme coffee maven. Avid zombie nerd. Devoted food junkie.

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