Do Drugs Cause a Chemical Imbalance? [Cause and Effect]
Although some drugs, like multi-vitamins or allergy pills, can benefit your health, others, like illegal street drugs, can act as a poison, damaging and negatively altering the body. Some of these street drugs’ physical side effects can show themselves outwardly. However, some of the more frightening side effects occur in the brain. Nearly all illegal street drugs can alter the brain’s natural chemistry. When using them habitually, a chemical imbalance from drugs can happen.
Sadly, addiction can be one of the most challenging things to recover from. Fortunately, we can help find a treatment program that is right for you. Call us at 614-502-6247 today to learn about all the options for recovery. Let us make this challenging journey a little easier for you. Remember, you can overcome it.
But what is a chemical imbalance? How does it affect your health and body? Can the brain rebalance? Keep reading to learn more.
How the Brain Functions
Before discussing how drugs can impact and create an imbalance in the brain, it is crucial to understand its functions. The mind is like a computer. It is intricate, complex, and controls thousands of operations. However, instead of using electric circuits, chips, and wires, the brain has neurons. These neurons are in different sections and networks, which control various functions in the body. Every neuron essentially acts as a switch, switching on and off to control the flow of information. When a neuron receives enough signals from the other neurons around it, it switches on, sending out its unique signal. The signals or messages sent from one neuron to another are neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters cross the space between neurons, allowing the signals from different neurons to flow through the brain where they need to go.
How Drugs Effect the Brain
Drugs have an immense impact on the brain. The high an individual gets while using them is a product of brain chemistry. However, what most people do not know is how this high occurs. When a person uses illegal drugs, like cocaine or meth, the brain reacts by releasing certain chemicals and firing specific neurons. One function that frequently occurs during drug use is the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a signal that goes through the brain in response to pleasure. As dopamine moves through neurons, it sends signals that give you feelings of happiness and satisfaction. When one ingests a drug, dopamine shoots through the brain’s proper channels to provide that person the “high”. However, the way illegal drugs stimulate the brain to release dopamine can be harmful in the long run.
How Neurotransmitters are Impacted by Drug Abuse
Although dopamine makes you feel good, the release of dopamine in the brain through routine drug use is problematic. Substance abuse can effectively alter how the brain releases dopamine. When abusing any drug, it can stimulate 2-10 times more dopamine release than other, more common, pleasures like food or sex. The flood of dopamine creates a high user’s feel. However, the brain eventually adapts. In response to extended substance abuse, the brain starts to lose its ability to produce and transmit dopamine. This process is what creates a chemical imbalance from drugs. By overstimulating the neurotransmission of dopamine, the brain loses control. Without drugs to activate dopamine flow, dopamine levels drop, which stimulates cravings and symptoms of withdrawal. In creating an imbalance, addiction and addictive behavior become more likely.
Other Neurotransmitters Drug Abuse Affects
Unfortunately, dopamine is not the only neurotransmitter drug use affects. Likewise, it is the only one that can cause a chemical imbalance in the brain. Other neurotransmitters that can be affected by drug use include:
- The serotonin inhibitory neurotransmitter acts as a mood stabilizer and impacts sexual desire, sleep, and appetite. However, abuse of ecstasy, cocaine, or PCP can affect its function.
- Glutamate is a principal excitatory neurotransmitter that increases neuron activity. It is the learning and memory portion of your brain. Alcohol, ketamine, and PCP can harm this neurotransmitter.
- Gamma-aminobutyric acid is a neurotransmitter that lowers stress by slowing one’s heart rate. It is a natural tranquilizer. However, you can tamper with its function by using Xanax, alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilizers.
- Norepinephrine is an excitatory neurotransmitter that works like adrenaline. It is where the “fight or flight” response comes from. You can damage this section by abusing substances like methamphetamine, amphetamines, ADHD medications, or cocaine.
- Endorphins and endogenous opioid peptides control the slowing of central nervous system functions. Also, they have a natural painkilling effect, which you can affect by abusing opioids like painkillers and heroin.
- The abuse of marijuana can negatively impact the endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitter. This assists in memory, cognitive functions, and movement.
Moreover, which drugs affect neurotransmitters? All of them. Abusing all or some of the medicines mentioned, an individual puts themselves in danger of creating a chemical imbalance with one or more of these neurotransmitters. This can lead to adverse effects on the body and functioning.
If you, or someone you care about, are suffering from the effects of drug abuse then contact us. Our experts can help you work toward rebuilding a happier and healthier life. Do not hesitate. Call today.
The Side Effects of Drug Abuse and Chemical Imbalance
Symptoms of a chemical imbalance in the brain include compromisation of:
- Ability to think
- Stress levels
- Sexual desire
- Ability to feel pleasure
- Reward processing
Drugs effectively hijack the brain’s functions. They tell the brain to operate differently than usual, often in unsustainable ways. While this process can be pleasurable for a time, it is ultimately detrimental because it changes the brain for the worse. Likewise, it makes the functioning of every day more difficult and less pleasing.
Of all the physical and emotional ails that can come from a chemical imbalance, there is one more. Addiction itself is often the result of chemical imbalance. Drugs stimulate the brain to release dopamine. However, drugs overstimulate this release, so the body has to compensate. Unfortunately, this means that the body releases less dopamine for more natural reasons. The brain is preparing for the drug to overstimulate, and with long-term drug abuse, the mind becomes reliant on the drug for the release of dopamine. This change in the brain essentially rewires a person for an addiction. If the only way to release dopamine is through drugs, then someone is more likely to want to use it.
How to Restore Balance in the Brain
Can balance return? Can someone with damaged dopamine receptor symptoms recover? Fortunately, it is possible. Despite the influence drugs can have on the brain, you can rebalance and restore; however, it is not easy. The first step for addressing a chemical imbalance is to go through detoxification. Detox aims to help someone reach a physical stability level to prepare them for entry into a substance abuse treatment program. This process should always be in a medical facility under the supervision of medical professionals. As one detoxifies their body, slowly ridding itself of the abused substance or substances, they will go through immense cravings and often painful withdrawals. However, a team of medical professionals can monitor the individual and give them medications to help.
Moreover, after going through detox, you can enter a substance abuse treatment program, ready to restore yourself and the brain. While the body can process and remove a toxic substance within a few days, or even up to 2 weeks, the brain takes a while longer to reorient itself. This is one reason why the National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends attending a treatment program for at least 90 days or longer. While in a program for this length of time, you can undergo cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), improving brain function. The goal of CBT is to help you recognize and change their behavior. In doing so, you can acknowledge their addictive behavior and form new habits to cope or take its place. This allows the brain to recover as you commit to healthier responses to stress and negative emotions.
However, if you would like to learn more about the treatment option available to you, then please reach out. Our experts will work with you to make sure you get on the best path for you and your needs. Please call us as soon as you are ready to start your recovery journey.
The Role of Recovery
Do drugs cause a chemical imbalance? To summarize, yes, an individual can have a chemical imbalance from drugs. Most illegal street drugs act as a poison to the brain. When ingested, they overstimulate neurotransmitters like dopamine. However, when you abuse them for a long time, the brain adapts, making it nearly impossible for certain neurotransmissions to occur without drugs being in their system. This leads to dangerous, addictive behavior. However, we can help you restore balance. It takes a fair amount of time, but through the process of recovery at our substance abuse treatment center, you can heal and reorient yourself along with your brain.
Finally, if you, or someone you love, are suffering from addiction, there is help available. Addiction can be difficult to overcome, especially considering its impact on the brain. However, it is possible with treatment. Give us a call today at 614-502-6247 to speak with an addiction specialist. They will be more than happy to guide you to the right treatment and help kickstart your sober life. Do not lose hope. Remember, you can, and you will, get through this difficult time.
Written by Richard Morris
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