How Drug and Alcohol Addiction Can Damage Your Brain and Why It Is Important to Resolve Addiction

Posted by admin on February 28, 2017

Drugs and alcohol pose a number of risks to the addict – they can lead to risky behavior, they can diminish the ability to get through the day and perform daily tasks, they can destroy relationships, they can cause financial loss, and so much more.  But, while those risks and ramifications may be the most visible, they are not the only damage occurring.  Multiple studies have shown that drug and alcohol addiction can actually damage the brain.  Though the brain is capable of healing from some forms of addiction; if prolonged addiction takes place permanent damage may occur.

The extent of brain damage that can occur as a result of addiction depends heavily on the substance that is being abused, the amount of substance abuse, and the frequency with which abuse occurs.  Many people think brain damage only happens with serious illicit drug abuse but it can occur with any type of addiction. For example, the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism notes that alcoholics can experience of range of brain damage as a result of a lasting addiction, “We do know that heavy drinking may have extensive and far–reaching effects on the brain, ranging from simple “slips” in memory to permanent and debilitating conditions that require lifetime custodial care.”

As we have discussed previously, drug addiction literally changes brain chemistry and the brain’s ability to make dopamine.  When the body’s ability to make dopamine decreases, the body struggles to feel joy, happiness or satisfaction without the assistance of the addictive substance which is why many people become addicted to various substances.  While some brain damage can be reversed, some cannot and that is particularly true in the case of methamphetamine users.  The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) highlights the lasting damage that methamphetamine addiction causes, “These and other problems reflect significant changes in the brain caused by abuse of methamphetamine. Neuroimaging studies have demonstrated alterations in the activity of the dopamine system that are associated with reduced motor speed and impaired verbal learning. Studies in chronic methamphetamine abusers have also revealed severe structural and functional changes in areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory, which may account for many of the emotional and cognitive problems observed in chronic methamphetamine abusers… Methamphetamine abuse also has been shown to have negative effects on non-neural brain cells called microglia. These cells support brain health by defending the brain against infectious agents and removing damaged neurons.”

While the NIDA notes that some of the effects are partially reversible, some are not.  All of these startling statistics and research highlight the need to stop addiction as soon as possible and seek recovery.  When addiction does not have time to persist and worsen, many of the damaging effects to the brain can be diminished or avoided altogether.  It is imperative that an addict seek recovery counseling and treatment as soon as possible so that they can be equipped with the tools and support they need to leave behind addiction and begin healing.

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