Tag Archives: drugs and the brain

Drug Abuse Makes You Stupid

The fact that drugs change brain chemistry and alter brain function, affecting the areas that control inhibition, logic, sight, hearing, and thought process is a concept that most people learn at an early age.

Elementary and middle students are accustomed to hearing that the impact drugs have on the brain are devastating, and the side effects of drug use can have a life-long impact. Understanding how drugs influence the brain can make saying “no” to the temptation to use easier.

Drugs and the Brain

The brain is a complex organ made up of many parts working together as a unit. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drugs can alter parts of the brain that are responsible for coordinating and performing specific functions.[1] This includes life-sustaining functions which can drive the brain to addictive behaviors.

The brain areas most commonly affected by drug abuse include the following:

  • Brain stem- the brain stem is responsible for heart rate, breathing, and sleeping.
  • Cerebral cortex- controls thinking, senses, and the ability to solve problems and make decisions.
  • Limbic system- the limbic system is the brain’s reward center and links together structures that control our ability to feel pleasure. The limbic system is activated by healthy life choices, such as eating and socializing, but it is also activated by drugs of abuse.

The brain’s communication system uses neurotransmitters to send messages to its various parts. When the brain is exposed to drugs, these neurotransmitters no longer function as they were intended to function. This can be a good thing when a person is in pain and uses prescription pain medication to change the way the brain responds to that pain. But when medications have been used for too long or in larger amounts that prescribed, the brain no longer produces its own neurotransmitters and needs the drug to feel and function “normally.” This type of dependence on a substance quickly leads to addiction.

Brain Xrays

Cocaine and the Brain

Cocaine is a drug that is particularly damaging to healthy brain function. Brain scans taken of a person who hasn’t used cocaine shows a fair amount of activity. Brain scans of a cocaine addict show almost no brain function. When that same addict stops using cocaine for a 10-day period, there is still minimal brain activity on the scan.

Only after months of abstinence does the brain scan show that brain function is returning and, depending upon the amount of cocaine used and how long the person lived as a cocaine addict, the brain still may not be functioning at normal capacity.

Cocaine Addiction Rehab

When it comes to cocaine addiction treatment or trying to maintain sobriety after stimulant addiction is that while there are few hardcore physical withdrawal symptoms, the psychological withdrawal from the drug is intense. It hits hard in the first few weeks of recovery and then returns a few months later. This pattern of cravings and compulsive behavior with cocaine addiction, crystal meth addiction, and addiction to prescription stimulant medication means that long-term residential cocaine rehab is the best choice for cocaine addicts.

Through inpatient treatment, you put a buffer between yourself and your connection: if you can’t get coke, you can’t use coke. Practicing this basic principle for as long as possible means you build up time without the drug, which is so important in drug addiction recovery. You begin to meet new people, experience new things, and learn how to get through the day without cocaine or other drugs. Reintegration back into the “real” world is much easier on those who have more clean and sober time at a drug rehab.

Rehab at Michael’s House

If you would like to learn more about our sober living program or long-term cocaine rehab program here in Palm Springs, California, contact us at Michael’s House today at 760-548-4032.


[1] The National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Drugs, Brains and Behavior: The Science of Addiction,” July 2014. Accessed March 28, 2017. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain