For any drug to affect the user, it must enter the body and the bloodstream to eventually interact with the brain. Drugs that enter the bloodstream faster have quicker and more intense effects on the brain. How a drug is taken also determines how quickly it affects the brain as well as how long its effect lasts. Drugs that are easy to ingest and get into the bloodstream have more intense and faster effects. Therefore, intravenous injection of drugs yields greater rush than their oral ingestion with all factors being equal. That’s because an intravenous injection avails the drug to the brain immediately and no time is required by the body to process or absorb the drug.
Additionally, the amount of the drug that enters the bloodstream at once influences its effect on the brain. For instance, when a person drinks alcohol on an empty stomach, its effect on the brain will be felt faster than when they drink after eating. The food in the stomach provides a buffer that limits the amount of the alcohol that gets into the bloodstream and eventually into the brain. Nevertheless, different drugs affect the brain differently.
How the Brain Works
Many people call AddictionResource addiction hotline numbers when drug overdose interferes with the normal functioning of the brain. These numbers are manned by friendly professionals that understand the needs of addicts and their loved ones. They provide advice, support, and information they need to beat addiction safely.
To understand the human brain, it’s important to compare it with an intricate and incredibly complex computer. But, instead of having electrical circuits, the human brain has cells known as neurons. These form organized networks and circuits.
The brain comprises many interconnected circuits that function as a team. Different circuits in the brain are responsible for performing and coordinating specific functions. Neurons networks send signals to and from each other as well as among other brain parts, nerves, and the spinal cord.
Neurons release transmitters into the synapse or the gap between them. Neurotransmitters cross the synapse and then attach to the receptors of the receiving neurons the way a lock and a key do. This alters the receiving cell. There are other molecules known as transporters. These recycle neurotransmitters thereby shutting off or limiting signals between neurons.
How Drugs Work Once in the Brain
Once in the brain, drugs affect how neurons receive, send, and process signals through neurotransmitters. Some drugs like heroin and marijuana activate neurons. That’s because they have a chemical structure similar to that of the natural neurotransmitters. As such, these drugs can attach to and activate neurons.
But, though such drugs mimic the naturally produced chemicals in the body, they do not activate neurons the way natural neurotransmitters do. They also lead to the sending of abnormal messages through the natural network.
Drugs like cocaine and amphetamine can lead to the release of natural neurotransmitters in abnormally large amounts. They can also interfere with transporters and prevent the normal recycling of brain chemicals. This disrupts or amplifies normal communication between neurons. It is such effects that necessitate calling drug addiction hotline numbers especially in the events of overdose.
The Brain Parts Affected by Drugs
Research has shown that drugs alter the mesolimbic pathway of the brain. This is also called the reward pathway. Different drugs act on the reward pathway differently. However, every drug affects the reward system of the brain in one way or another. Here are the major parts of the brain that are affected by drugs.
The Basal Ganglia
This part of the brain plays a crucial role in positive motivations. These include the pleasurable effects of activities like sex, socializing, and eating. These activities are included in the formation of routines and habits and they form an important node of the reward circuit. Drugs can over-activate the reward circuit to produce the euphoria that people consider the drug high. However, repeated exposure can make the circuit adapt the drug presence thereby diminishing sensitivity to make feeling pleasure from other things apart from the drug difficult.
The Extended Amygdala
This part of the human brain plays a critical role in stressful feelings like irritability, anxiety, and unease. These feelings characterize the withdrawal of many drugs thereby motivating them to seek and use them again. An increase in drug use increases the sensitivity of this circuit. After some time, a person with an addiction uses the drug to relieve the discomfort instead of using it to get high. When it gets to this point, an individual should call an addiction helpline for assistance because quitting the use of the drug alone can have life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
The Prefrontal Cortex
This brain part powers the natural ability to make decisions, exert self-control when faced with impulses, as well as, solve problems, plan and think. This is the brain part that matures last. That’s why teens are the most vulnerable. When balance shifts between this circuit and the stress and reward circuits of the extended amygdala and basal ganglia, an addict seeks the addictive substance compulsively. Their self-control is reduced.
Opioids can affect other brain parts like the brain stem which is responsible for controlling basic functions that are important to life like heart rate, sleeping, and breathing. This explains why overdoses lead to emergency calls to drug abuse hotline numbers. Overdoses of such drugs lead to depressed breathing and in some cases, death.
How Drugs Give Users Pleasure
Euphoria or pleasure is high that a person gets from using a drug. Research has shown that neurobiological processes have a role in reward and substance use disorders. These processes involve chemical surges that signal compounds like neurotransmitters and natural opioids.
When a person takes some drugs, they cause surges of neurotransmitters in larger amounts than the naturally produced bursts in association with rewards like social interaction, creative pursuits, music, and eating.
Some researchers thought that surges of dopamine, a neurotransmitter, by some drugs caused this euphoria. However, scientists have now suggested that the role of dopamine is more about getting a person to repeat pleasurable activities than producing pleasure.
The Bottom Line
The human brain is a complex organ that is responsible for the regulation of the basic functions of the body. It’s the brain that enables an individual to receive, interpret, and respond to experiences. It also shapes behavior. The brain is simply responsible for everything a person feels and thinks. Some drugs severely affect the ability of the brain to function properly. If you think drugs have affected your brain or that of your loved one, call rehab to seek professional assistance.