The Effects Of Long Term Drug Use On The Brain

man with brain difficulty

Drugs work by changing the brain’s chemistry and by affecting the neuron signaling in many ways. The job of the neurons is to control cognition, muscle movement, sensory information, and emotions. They communicate with each other using synapses. As the neurons connect to the synapses, they release special chemicals called neurotransmitters. All of these things work together as part of a normally functioning brain. Some drugs are similar in structure to neurotransmitters and are able to bind to neurotransmitter receptors on neurons.

Drugs like cocaine and amphetamines stimulate neurons to release abnormally high amounts of these neurotransmitters. Others cause the release of high amounts of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter. This is what is responsible for the euphoric highs that drug users talk about.

The Risk Of Brain Damage

brain image

It goes without saying that long-term drug use will no doubt take its toll on the brain. For example, research from the National Institute on Health in a Science Education Study on ecstasy, ice and speed users in Australia suggests that long-term use of these drugs is likely to cause brain damage. The brains of 30 patients who had been treated in the ER for amphetamine-related problems were scanned for this particular study. Out of the 30 patients, 6 of them showed signs of brain damage, which the doctors said showed up as an “unidentified bright object” on the frontal lobe during the scan. The results of the study concluded that one in five has suffered a likely drug-related brain injury. Additional emerging evidence also suggests that long-term amphetamine use may cause anxiety, depression, memory disturbance, and psychosis.

Can The Damage Be Reversed?

There are certain areas and degrees of brain damage that cannot be repaired. For example, methamphetamine causes permanent damage to the cells of the self-control tract with the very first use. This damage is equivalent to months or even years of alcohol abuse. It is also the reason why many meth addicts claim they became hooked after using it only one time. While this cell damage is most likely permanent, biochemical changes in the brain can reverse after six to twelve months of abstinence. This means a relief from the anxiety, depression, nightmares, and hallucinations that recovery meth addicts typically experience. So, how can one keep these things from happening to him? The answer may be too simple. Stay away from drugs. Never use them in the first place.

This may be easier said than done for some, but the truth is, there are no excuses. Most teens are aware of which of their fellow peers are using drugs or alcohol. The easiest way to stay away from drugs and the pressure to use them is to keep out of situations in which drugs may be present. This includes certain parties or gatherings, usually. As for parents, try to keep children involved in activities that promote production and encourage ethical behavior. Set rules and standards for the household and follow them to be a good example.



Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.