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Addiction and Its Impact on the Brain:
Previously believed to be a moral issue resulting from poor decisions, addiction is now widely acknowledged as a chronic, relapsing condition that entails changes to the brain that may last a lifetime. Addiction can cause the brain to adjust in a way that when drug use is decreased or halted, a person experiences withdrawal.
After a critical stage, the brain cannot handle the changes of sudden reduction or stoppage in the substance intake and often reacts drastically. As a result, a person with an addiction uses a substance or engages in a particular behavior for which the reward may provide a compelling incentive to repeat the activity.
Getting sober is considerably more complex than just saying “no” to drugs because of the brain alterations brought on by prolonged substance use. Substance use is initially a choice made by the user, but when brain chemistry changes and addiction sets in, the user’s capacity to manage their use decreases.
What Parts of the Brain are Affected By Drugs and Alcohol?
Substance use and abuse have a negative influence on three critical areas of the brain:
- The basal ganglia: The area that plays a significant role in the reward circuit and is responsible for developing routines and habits.
- The extended amygdala: The area that affects reliance and the discomfort and anxiety experienced after withdrawal.
- The prefrontal cortex: The area that is necessary for higher-order cognitive processes like impulse control and decision-making.
By interfering with these areas:
The abuse can hinder a person’s capacity for thought, problem-solving, making plans, and impulse control. In addition, adolescents and teens who abuse drugs are more in danger of the long-term effects of drugs/alcohol on this region of the brain since the prefrontal cortex is the last part of the brain to develop fully.
Substance addiction can cause an intense, addictive high and eventually reduce the brain’s capacity to experience significant pleasure from normal rewards like food, sleep, sex, or exercise.
How Does The Brain React When Substance Intake is Instantaneously Reduced?
The brain doesn’t instantly revert to normal after drug usage is stopped. Some medications can destroy neurons due to their toxic effects, and most of these cells won’t grow back. In addition, the connections between neurons in the brain can change, and some of those changes can remain for months. According to other studies, the effects could persist for years.
The Brain of Drug Abuser:
Any person who has lost the power of self-control over the use of licit or illicit drugs is considered a chronic drug abuser.
The brain responds to medications by reducing its ability to receive messages, much to how we lower the volume on an overly loud radio. As a result, the reward circuit in an addict’s brain is unusually deficient. As a result, they feel melancholy, lifeless, and flat. They can’t take pleasure in the things they used to. To feel normal, they must continue taking medicines, further exacerbating the issue. Because the brain is getting used to the medications, it will take more of them to get the same effect.
Due to long-lasting brain alterations, people with addiction issues may find it challenging to maintain their drug-free status. They frequently go through years of severe cravings, which might result in relapse. However, neuroplasticity exists in the brain. That implies that, over time, it can heal itself.
Some opioid-dependent individuals have shown concerning alterations in their brains, like:
- Changes in the white matter tracts of the human brain. Antisocial conduct, such as violence and aggression, may be associated with abnormalities of the white matter tracts in the brain.
- Alterations in the functional connectivity of specific brain areas. Issues with cognitive processing may result from disrupted interconnection. It might also indicate alterations in how the brain is structured.
- Loss of amygdala volume and a decline in the amygdala’s capacity to process information.
The Brain of An Alcoholic:
Alcohol addiction or alcoholism is the inability to control drinking due to physical and emotional dependence on alcohol. Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways and can change the way the brain looks and works.
Drinking alcohol alters the chemical composition of one’s brain and slows down the body. As a result, the subject’s energy levels, mood, focus, and memory may all be affected. It can impair our movement, judgment, and speech and cause nausea and vomiting. Additionally, it can disrupt the sleep cycle, adversely affecting one’s mental health.