Drug Addiction And Its Effects On The Brain.

what is an Addiction?

We all have something we say we are addicted to, jokingly sometimes we say we are addicted to certain foods, behaviors, hobbies or even a person. We use the word “addicted” jokingly but are we really addicted? An addiction is when someone has difficulties stopping a certain behavior, for instance, smoking, drinking, and drug use. There are so many types of addiction but today we will mostly talk about drug addiction and how it affects the brain. (see other types of addiction here)https://www.addictioncenter.com/addiction/10-most-common-addictions/

drugs come in various forms

What qualifies a person as an addict?

In order to qualify as an addict, one must meet at least 3 criteria on the DSM- IV (criteria of the American Psychiatric Association)

  1. Tolerance – The need to use drugs for long periods of time
  2. Withdrawals – experiencing shaking, sweats, vomiting, anxiety or irritation when stopped using?
  3. Limited control – Need to use drugs at all times, using more than you need.
  4. Neglected or postponed activities – skipped work or school because of use
  5. Desire to cut down – thoughts about cutting down on how much you are using?

Why do people get addicted?

Drug users become addicted because drugs will stimulate the pleasure center of the brain through neurotransmitters such as dopamine and GABA

What does drug abuse do to the brain?

Research evidence show:

  • That continued drug use impairs brain function by interfering with the capacity to self- control over drug-taking behaviors and rendering the brain more sensitive to stress and negative moods.
  • Drugs also modulate the expression of genes involved in neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections) meaning not allowing neuroplasticity to take place. (Learn more about neuroplasticity here) https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=40362
  • Drugs also affect other parts of the brain that play critical roles in the functioning of other parts of the body.
    1. They affect the limbic system, which is linked to a number of brain structures which control and regulate the ability to feel pleasure.
    2. The brain stem, which plays role in breathing, heart rate regulation and sleep.
    3. The cerebral cortex, especially the frontal cortex which aides in thinking, ability to solve problems and make decisions. Other parts of the cerebral cortex play role in enabling sight, feeling, and tasting.


dopamine levels decrease over time

Overtime if a parson continues using and abusing drugs, numbers of receptors that help in signaling are reduced hence reduction of dopamine as well and when dopamine is at low levels in the brain, a person loses their ability to experience pleasure.

If you or a loved one suffers from addiction please call SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or 1-877-751-1806 or visit the websites below 

https://drugabuse.com/library/drug-abuse-hotlines/  https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline