We are all well-versed with the adverse effects of addiction on our body and how it can bring down our mental faculties to a low. It brings about a lot of changes to a person’s behavior as well. We all are aware of these severe effects of addiction. But we do not know how it exactly affects our brain. Let us see how any form of addiction impacts our brain.
How does one get addicted?
Various addictive stimulants such as nicotine, opioids, alcohol, and sedatives consist of chemical compounds that enter the brain through the bloodstream. Once the chemical enters and interacts with various regions in the brain, people gradually lose hold over their impulses. This is generally followed by brief spells of intense satisfaction.
This is the way how people become weak because of addiction. When someone is addicted to something, the brain of the person craves for that satisfaction. It has severe effects on the person’s behavior because addiction unfolds the euphoric feelings and other strange behavioral traits.
If addiction is not treated, then it has adverse effects on the long run causing brain damage. Let us see how it affects certain crucial functional regions in the brain.
When a person is addicted to something, it causes severe effects on the limbic system of our brain. The limbic system is that part of the brain that controls our emotions. When that part of the body is disturbed due to addiction, it disrupts a person’s mental balance.
For instance, when a person smokes a cigarette, the nicotine gets mixed with his bloodstream and enters the brain. There it interacts with the limbic system releasing strong euphoric emotions. Hence, individuals who continue indulging in these addictions crave to feel those emotions once again. This creates a vicious, creates a cycle of addiction.
What areas of the brain are affected by addiction?
Our brain has certain regions that carry out specific functions. The cerebellum is a part of our mind that helps us with coordinative functions. Whereas, the hippocampus is that side of the brain deals with memory.
Severe addiction causes a lot of disturbances to these parts of the brain affecting their ability to remember and carry out co-ordinational tasks.
Moreover, it also causes disturbances to the way the brain communicates. The complete communication in our brain is carried out by complex circuitry of neurons. These interconnected neurons carry out the connection in our brain, known as neurotransmission.
Neurotransmission comprises a wide range of chemical substances, which are typically referred to as “neurotransmitters.” One such chemical substance that is released in our brain is called “dopamine.”
Typically, dopamine is released by a neuron directly into the small gap between neurons. Dopamine is a protein that usually holds the neurons together tightly. They are called as “dopamine receptors” These dopamine receptors help transmit signals to neurons.
Once the signal is sent to the neighboring neuron, the dopamine is transmitted back to the neuron from which it was released by another specialized protein, which is referred to as the “dopamine transporter.”
This is how regular communication takes place inside our brain. However, this communication is disturbed by intense and prolonged drug abuse. For instance, a person who snorts cocaine will get the dopamine that’s released from the dopamine transporters.
This leads to the buildup of dopamine in the brain, causing intense stimulation of receiving neurons. It is because of this that we experience euphoria after an addictive episode.
Reward Centre (Pleasure Centre) of Brain
All the pleasures are sensed in our brain the same way irrespective of where they originate from. Be it a psychological drug, a monetary prize, a sexual encounter, or a highly satiating meal. All these pleasures are registered in our brains in the same fashion.
When dopamine is released in the reward center, it is so strongly linked with pleasure that a lot of doctors refer to it as the pleasure center. All kinds of drugs and addictive indulgences cause a surging release of dopamine in our reward center.
The rate at which the use of a drug can lead to addiction is directly proportional to the speed at which the dopamine is released in our rewarding center. Along with that, even the intensity of that release, and the reliability of that release is taken into consideration.
When the same drug is consumed through various other methods, it can have varying effects on our brain, and hence it can lead to addiction at a different rate.
For instance, if you smoke a drug or inject it instead of swallowing it as a pill, it can produce a much faster, stronger, and intense dopamine signal generation, and ultimately, it becomes more likely to lead to drug addiction.
As we have seen how addiction can alter our brain functioning and has severe effects on our daily activities, it is essential to not indulge in any of these activities if you wish to live a healthy and longer life.