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Drugs are explained as chemicals or substances that change the way one’s body works by affecting a person’s mental or physical state. Different drugs can have neurotoxic and destructive effects on brain cells. The Mayo Clinic refers to the brain as the most complex organ in the human body. The human brain is a highly adaptable organ, and when drugs and alcohol change the brain’s chemistry, the brain adapts. Substances that are associated with neurological damage include but are not limited to the following:

  • Opioids: are a class of drugs used to alleviate moderate to moderately severe, including the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids (e.g., fentanyl) and prescription pain medications (e.g., codeine, morphine, etc.). When opioids are ingested, they work by attaching to opioid receptors, which are in one’s brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in one’s body. Opioids adjust the amount of information surrounding pain that is relayed to various areas of one’s body, by reducing one’s perception of pain. Reported brain changes that may occur from habitual opioid use include:
    • Alterations in the brain’s white matter tracts. Abnormalities of the white matter tracts in the brain may be linked to antisocial behavior.
    • Changes in functional interconnectivity between certain brain regions, causing issues with. It may also be an indicator of structural changes in the brain.
    • Loss of volume in the amygdala, as well as impaired information processing by the amygdala.
  • Benzodiazepines (benzos): belong to a class of medications known as sedative hypnotics. When ingested, benzodiazepines affect one’s system by enhancing the effects of the neurotransmitter, known as GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is a neurotransmitter that sends calming messages to the body. Benzodiazepines work by interacting with the natural functioning of one’s brain and central nervous system.
    • New studies correlate long-term benzodiazepine abuse with an increased risk of dementia and/ or Alzheimer’s disease.
    • Some evidence indicates benzos abuse is linked to cognitive decline.
  • Alcohol: is a psychoactive, central nervous system depressant that works by slowing down vital functions in one’s body.
    • Studies have shown that alcohol increases the level of dopamine in the brain’s reward system by as much as 360%.
    • Chronic alcohol use may result in brain shrinkage.
  • Methamphetamine (meth): is a synthetic, neuro-toxic, central nervous system stimulant.
    • Research shows that stimulant abuse can decrease the brain’s plasticity, causing problems with executive function and decreasing cognitive and behavioral flexibility.
    • Methamphetamine abuse is linked to significant functional and structural brain changes in areas related to emotion and memory.

For Information and Support

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at admissions@hhtxc.com.

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