The human brain controls the way that individuals act, think and interpret the world around them. When a loved one abuses drugs or alcohol, his or her brain changes. The University of Utah1 explains that substance abuse rewires the brain and changes its reward system.
Essentially, the drug causes the brain the flood the system with pleasure or reward hormones like dopamine. Over time, individuals do not respond to the hormone when it is naturally produced and an addiction to the substance develops.
Functions and Regions of the Brain
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke2, scientists divide the brain into three main regions: the forebrain, the midbrain and the hindbrain. The hindbrain refers to the portion of the brain that connects to the spinal cord. It includes the cerebellum, the brain stem and the upper portion of the spinal cord.
The hindbrain controls vital bodily functions, like breathing and your heart beat, says the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke2. It also controls coordination and activates when individuals develop skills like typing, playing the piano or similar activities.
The midbrain refers to the upper portion of the brain stem, explains the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke2. It is the portion of the brain that controls your reflexes, eye movements and voluntary movements. It often coordinates with the hindbrain for skills like playing a sport or completing other tasks.
Your forebrain refers to the largest portion of the brain. Arizona State University3 explains that different areas of the forebrain control specific functions, like memory, your five senses or problem solving skills.
The forebrain breaks down into different areas, or regions, like the frontal lobe, the temporal lobe and the parietal lobe. Each area controls specific functions, such as interpreting information from your five senses or controlling certain behaviors.
Short-Term Impact of Drug Abuse on the Brain
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse4, drugs interfere with the way that your brain communicates. It taps into the neurons that allow you to problem solve, perform certain tasks or control your body. When a loved one abuses drugs or alcohol, it has short and long-term consequences to the health and well-being of the brain.
Short-term effects of substance abuse include:
- Poor coordination or body control
- Slurred speech
- Short-term memory loss or black outs
- Mood swings
- Inappropriate behaviors
Excessive substance abuse in a short amount of time contributes to health risks. Some substances contribute to the risk of heart attacks, strokes or severe health conditions.
Long-Term Impact of Drug Abuse
The National Institute on Drug Abuse5 says that the brain adjusts to drugs or alcohol over time. When a loved one abuses drugs for an extended period, he or she increases the risk of becoming addicted.
Long-term effects of substance abuse on the brain include:
- Changing behaviors
- Poor memory
- Inability to feel pleasure from normal activities
- Poor mood or mood disorders
- Damage to the brain
Treatment for Managing Abuse
Addiction changes the way that a loved one thinks and behaves. In some cases, the addiction causes permanent damage to the brain. Professional treatment programs provide the tools to manage temptations when a loved one abuses drugs or alcohol.
The brain is the control center for your entire body. It controls the way that you think, behave and perceive the world. Substance abuse changes a loved one’s perspective, but treatment provides a chance to recover and heal.
- Drug Use Changes the Brain Over Time, The University of Utah, http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/addiction/brainchange/
- Brain Basics: Know Your Brain, The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, April 17, 2015, http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/know_your_brain.htm
- What Are the Regions of the Brain and What Do They Do?, Arizona State University, http://askabiologist.asu.edu/what-your-brain-doing
- Drugs and the Brain, The National Institute on Drug Abuse, July 2014, http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain
- DrugFacts: Brain and Addiction, The National Institute on Drug Abuse, April 20, 2015, http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/brain-and-addiction