How Does Substance Misuse Affect the Brain?

How Does Substance Misuse Affect the Brain?

A common misconception is that people with substance use disorder (SUD) have low moral character. However, anyone can experience SUD, and treatment involves healing the mind and body. SUD affects a person's brain in various ways. Sometimes it reaches a point where they no longer have complete control over their thoughts, behaviours, and beliefs.

Alcohol and other substances can significantly affect a person's ability to cope with daily stress. According to the Press Information Bureau (PIB), in India, "At the national level, about 14.6% of people (among 10-75 years old) are current users of alcohol, i.e. about 16 Crore people." Samarpan Recovery treats SUD and co-occurring disorders using evidence-based methods to ensure clients get the support they need to recover from the effects of substance misuse.

How Substance Misuse Can Affect the Brain

The brain directly affects mood, behaviour, and emotional responses. According to the United States National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), "Drugs interfere with the way neurons send, receive, and process signals via neurotransmitters."

In addition, "Some drugs, such as marijuana and heroin, can activate neurons because their chemical structure mimics that of a natural neurotransmitter in the body," which "allows the drugs to attach onto and activate the neurons." Substances can cause permanent and temporary side effects affecting a person's ability to function.

SUD impacts the brain in multiple ways, including:

  • Increased dopamine levels change reward associations, mood, and behaviour
  • Decreased synaptic activity changes behaviour
  • Rewired brain activity can cause compulsions, intrusive thoughts, and behavioural outbursts

The many possible ways substances can interact with the brain make it difficult to predict how they will affect a specific client's behaviours and temperament.

Are Changes Within the Brain Permanent?

Not all changes caused by substance misuse are permanent. However, some can last for a significant period of time after a client begins recovery. Other symptoms and side effects may decrease more quickly. In most cases, the severity of the symptoms and how long they last depend on the type of substance misused.

Some possible permanent changes to the brain include:

  • Decreased IQ due to the misuse of marijuana or other mind-altering substances during adolescents or young adulthood
  • Memory issues, including Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which is caused by vitamin B1 deficiency, a common result of chronic alcohol misuse
  • Hypoxia during substance misuse can cause tissue damage and cell death in the brain
  • Accidents or injuries caused by substance misuse can lead to traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Amphetamines and other substances increase the risk of stroke, which can cause permanent brain damage

Many clients and their families are unaware of the potentially life-threatening danger of alcohol and substance misuse. Treatment involves educating clients and their loved ones on how addiction changes the body and endangers a person's long-term health.

Substance Misuse Is Not a Moral Failing

A common misconception is that people who misuse substances lack a moral compass or have some character defect. However, anyone can experience SUD regardless of age, gender, caste, family history, or socioeconomic status. According to the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, "Alcohol is the most common substance used followed by cannabis and opioids." All of these substances have a significant impact on brain function.

Treatment programs like the ones offered at Samarpan Recovery understand the effect these substances can have and collaborate with clients to do the following:

  • Provide ethical and compassionate care
  • Offer accommodations and take cultural, personal, and religious preferences into account during treatment planning
  • Allow the client to have autonomy and the ability to choose their own treatments

In some cases, people do not recognize the signs of potential dependency and substance misuse, making it more difficult for them to get the treatment they need to protect their physical and mental health. Samarpan Recovery educates communities to reduce stigmas and help people get the support they need to heal.

How to Repair Changes Caused By Substance Misuse

Many of the changes to the brain caused by substance misuse can be reversed or minimized if clients do the following:

  • Practice self-care
  • Eat regular nutritional meals
  • Stay hydrated
  • Get the recommended amount of sleep
  • Regularly engage in positive social interactions
  • Participate in various forms of therapy

Every client has a unique recovery journey. Samarpan Recovery uses personalized evidence-based, and holistic treatments to help clients heal.

Treatment Options at Samarpan

The treatment programs at Samarpan Recovery provide holistic care that addresses any current or underlying health issues related to a client's recovery. We ensure that all clients have access to essential services and resources to help them achieve and maintain sobriety. In addition, every client has a continuing care plan.

The care team provides advice to clients on how to manage SUD and co-occurring mental health issues. Samarpan Recovery also offers alumni support for clients who complete our treatment programs. Recovery does not end at the door. Our care team continues to support clients as they grow and heal.

A client's mental state can affect their brain and general health. Individuals struggling with substance use disorder often have multiple co-occurring disorders that impact their ability to function. All addictive substances affect the brain, and over a long period of time, they can cause temporary or permanent changes to thought patterns and behaviours. In addition, some substances affect cognition and a person's ability to function day-to-day. Samarpan Recovery uses evidence-based methods to help clients heal from the damage of addiction and mental health disorders. Our dedicated professionals provide clients with the tools, knowledge, and resources they need to establish and recover from the damaging effect of SUD. Learn more about our programs and services by calling +91 81809 19090.

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