Drug addiction has been plaguing the United States for generations and has been responsible for a massive amount of crime, corruption, and death. The only way to break the addiction cycle and bring about change is to understand what causes it in the first place.
In this article, we’ll be going over how drug addiction affects the brain. More specifically, we’ll take a look at what kind of damage drugs do to different parts of your brain when you take them.
How Drug Addiction Affects the Brain
Drug Addiction Hurts the Hippocampus The hippocampus is a chunk of nerve cells located at the back of your brain. It’s responsible for many functions like forming new memories, learning how to speak, and processing information about emotions.
When people take drugs, the hippocampus tends to shrink in size—specifically so it can fit around larger doses of cocaine and methamphetamines. This means users have trouble remembering things from their past, making bad choices, getting depressed, and more.
Drug Addiction Damages the Hypothalamus The hypothalamus is a tiny gland located at the bottom of your brain that’s responsible for regulating and controlling your body’s vital functions like:
- Hunger -Thirst -Sex drive (libido)
- Body temperature
- Sleep-wake cycle
- Lactation (the production and release of milk)
- Excretory functions like urination and defecation
When you take drugs, the hypothalamus tends to shrink. In fact, it shrinks by about a third in drug-addicted users—even more so when they take large amounts of cocaine. This means users need to consume more drugs to get the same effect, making them even more dependent on the substances.
Drug Addiction Damages the Striatum
The striatum is a group of nerve cells located deep in the brain responsible for coordinating movements, emotions, and behavior.
When you take drugs, the striatum and other parts of your prefrontal cortex tend to shrink in size. This makes users more likely to make impulsive decisions, have problems controlling their emotions, and be more likely to get addicted. It’s also a risk factor for Parkinson’s disease (which is one type of movement disorder).
Methamphetamine is particularly bad for the striatum—and repeated use can even destroy parts of this region. Drug abuse is also likely to cause drug-induced Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders in users who have abused high doses of amphetamines for a long period of time. Drug Addiction Slows the Temporal Lobe Drug addiction causes a lot of damage to your temporal lobe. Or in other words, the temporal lobe is where you keep your memories. It’s responsible for creating new memories and learning how to communicate. It’s also responsible for regulating how you feel in your body and how you react to different emotions and stimuli.
When addicted users take drugs, many parts of their temporal lobes die off—but especially so when they use stimulants like meth or cocaine.
This means that drug addicts have trouble: -Learning new information -Learning how to speak -Expressing their thoughts and emotions in a socially appropriate way
Drug Addiction Damages the Frontal Lobe
The frontal lobe is responsible for making difficult decisions, controlling your impulses, planning your actions, and being responsible for your own behaviors—and when you take drugs, like cocaine or heroin, this region of your brain starts to shrink.
This means drug addicts have trouble controlling their cravings, making choices, and controlling their emotions and behaviors. In fact, many of the symptoms of drug addiction are caused by frontal lobe damage.
Drug Addiction Damages the Parieto-Frontal Cortex The parieto-frontal cortex is a brain region that’s located right behind your forehead and is responsible for:
Noticeable physical changes to your face Emotional reaction (including how stressed, depressed, and anxious you feel) Body movement or “action” Sensation and movement of your arms and hands. When you take drugs, especially high amounts of cocaine, the parieto-frontal cortex is particularly prone to damage. This means that drug addicts have trouble:
Following through on their plans—and being able to learn new strategies and methods for solving problems. Incorporating emotional cues into their decisions Making quick, automatic decisions Meeting deadlines and doing what needs to be done at work.
In conclusion, the brain suffers some major damage when you take drugs. And the damage is even worse if you take drugs repeatedly over a long period of time. The good news is that you can recover from drug addiction. To find out how, contact us today at 855-334-6120