Drug and Alcohol Use: How it Attacks the Brain

Woman reaching for glass of alcoholContinued excessive use of drug or alcohol can result in dependence or addiction. This becomes a chronic brain disease that can change how the brain works, which affects memory, decision-making, judgment, and behavior control. The brain’s craving for increased use of the substance partly affects the behaviors and actions of the person with an addiction problem.

Los Angeles drug and alcohol rehab centers share how these substances alter the brain’s reward system:

Disruption in the Brain’s Communication System

Drugs and alcohol have a long-term effect on the brain. When introduced at a young age, it can have serious and lasting repercussions, as the brain is still developing. These substances, for the most part, alter how the neurons (brain cells) communicate with one another. Some drugs block the neurons, while others activate them, disrupting the flow of communication.

Overstimulation of the Brain

Alcohol and drugs target the reward system of the brain by flooding it with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates pleasure, cognition, motion, and movement. These substances can overstimulate the brain’s reward system (dopamine pathway), which then produces feelings of euphoria.  This also reinforces the behavior of using drugs and repeating it for pleasure.

Promoting Continued Drug Use

Drugs and alcohol teach the brain’s reward system to remember and want the feelings of pleasure and euphoria. These substances do this by releasing an excessive amount of dopamine, about two to 10 times more than natural rewards can offer. The intense reward of alcohol and other drugs encourages continued use despite health consequences.

Substances Become a Necessity

Individuals with abuse or addiction problems can experience long-lasting or more permanent changes in the brain. The alcohol or drugs that once stimulate brain’s reward system or dopamine production have become a necessity to produce feelings of happiness. This also means higher doses of the substance to experience a pleasurable effect.

If you or someone you know has drug or alcohol abuse problem, it’s important to be aware of how it can change the brain and affect your overall health. It’s also advisable to seek help from professionals or rehab centers.