The Impact Of Drugs On Cognitive Functioning

The various effects of drug abuse on the central stressed system can now be seen with a number of brain imaging scans. These imaging devices allow us to see changes at the molecular level immediately after medication use and grant us the ability to keep track of neurological changes during the period of the disease. Even as we come to understand what specific drugs do to the human brain, we are better in a position to forecast its course and aid the individual in the healing process.

Drug maltreatment and dependence quickly develop behavioral problems in users (Devlin, 2008). Psychosocial problems arise from the behavioral issues associated with medicine dependence. Especially, and of great concern to psychologists, is that individuals who abuse drugs, quickly commence to isolate themselves from others. This isolation makes figuring out the problem a lot more difficult, and makes the drawback and healing process more difficult and painful for an individual. 'Drug mistreatment' identifies illegal streets drugs, prescription drugs, liquor, inhalants, or any element that an individual uses to get 'high'.

Many drugs are injected intravenously for a faster 'high' and much more extreme 'optimum' for the user. The drugs themselves may contain the major aftereffect of impairment of mental function, however the route of administration can have serious issues as well. Persons with a history of intravenous substance abuse also are much more likely to have tuberculosis of the lungs. The medicine heroin can create a nephropathy in the kidney that resembles glomerulosclerosis when the medication is used intravenously (Devlin, 2008).

Opiates ('painkillers', eg. Vicodin) independently have nominal pathologic results. However, higher doses of more powerful opiates can result in respiratory unhappiness and fatality (albeit exceptional) (Devlin, 2008). Patients who use their analgesics as prescribed typically do not become addicted, but regrettably tolerance may develop as time passes, requiring higher doses to maintain analgesia (or transition to morphine, a medication that is as powerful as it is dangerous). The challenge with opiates will be the not pathologic effects, but issues that grow within the interpersonal sphere. Opiate addicts invariably become more and even more isolated and desire connection with others, less and less. This alienation exacerbates their already existing physical and psychological pain, so when a traumatic event hits an individual, they have no one (in their head) that they can decide on.

Cocaine use can exert a variety of negative side results. The major severe effects producing pathologic conditions derive from the increased circulating catecholamine levels with cocaine use. These increased catecholamines can produce vasoconstriction. The blood vessels become so slim, they are vulnerable to a bunch of life-threatening medical disorders. The lesions range from severe hemorrhages and infarction in the brain, which can lead to death. Incorporating cocaine use with ethanol use can compound the harm to the heart and brain. (Awtry and Philippides, 2010).

A Brain Hemorrhage Due to Heavy Cocaine Use

Pregnant mothers who use cocaine make a difference their fetuses from abnormalities of placental function leading to low delivery weight babies or an increased risk for placental abruption. Maternal cocaine use increases the risk for an accidental spontaneous abortion (Kuczkowski, 2007). This may cause a major depressive episode for the mother. During this time of depression the average person is at a high risk for increased cocaine maltreatment, combining other drugs looking for an improved 'high', and suicide (Kuczkowski, 2007).

Amphetamines damage both serotonergic and dopaminergic systems of the central stressed system. Modifications of the dopaminergic system may persist even after many years of abstinence from use of methamphetamine and it is associated with deficits in electric motor and cognitive performance (Gouzoulis-Mayfrank and Daumann, 2009). The harm caused to the dopaminergic system is often irreversible and makes restoration painful and extremely challenging. Even after the difficult drawback and abstinence from amphetamines, contentment remains elusive for a long time, and in some cases, for the others of the life. SSRIs and other pharmacological treatments do little to comfort the individual.

CNS toxicity of methamphetamine may be the result of both hyperthermia as well as immediate effects upon individual skin cells. A dose-related increase in body's temperature occurs with acute ingestion of methamphetamine. This may create negative effects of methamphetamine after the blood-brain barrier and upon neurons, resulting in edema (Kiyatkin and Sharma, 2009). The harm to the blood-brain hurdle makes any psychotropic medicine more dangerous. The damage to the blood-brain hurdle can be recovered from however, if abstinence is looked after for a number of years (Gouzoulis-Mayfrank and Daumann, 2009).

Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a metabolite of the neurotransmitter gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) and also functions as a neurotransmitter by impacting the dopaminergic system. GHB could also potentiate the effects of endogenous or exogenous opiates. GHB was released into the U. S. in 1990 as a purported stimulant to muscle growth during sleep, but it was soon prohibited because of issues with overdose and adverse reactions.

There are a multitude of adverse effects that can occur within a quarter-hour to one hour after ingesting GHB, including: hallucinations, loss of peripheral eyesight, nystagmus, hypoventilation, cardiac dysrhythmias, seizures, and short-term coma. These problems generally subside in 2 time to 4 days and nights. It is difficult to anticipate how much GHB will produce an overdose. Drawback from GHB can offer an onset in mere 12 hours and previous up to 12 times after an individual use! In uncommon instances, fatalities have happened from these undesireable effects (Timby et al, 2000). Not surprisingly evidence of swift craving and physical problems induced by the medication, this can be a commonly abused medication in colleges across the nation to this very day. Because GHB is a liquid, and not too difficult to obtain on campus, it is suspected in many conditions of 'time frame rape'.

MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine; typically called Ecstasy) can be an entactogenic drug of the phenethylamine and amphetamine individuals. In the 1970s MDMA was known as "empathy" or "Adam". In the beginning this drug was used to help aid lovers with intimacy problems. MDMA users not only experience an over-all well-being 'high', but often find themselves becoming seductive with others through the 'high'.

MDMA experimentally triggers selective and prolonged lesions of central serotonergic nerve terminals. MDMA users can have residual alterations of serotonergic transmission, and even though at least partial recovery may occur after long-term abstinence, problems may persist even after longer periods of abstinence. Long run use may be accompanied by long-lasting brain harm and memory space impairment (Carter et al, 2000) (McQuire, 2000).

In the 1990s a few young adults that regularly visited 'raves' (forever people) while high on MDMA, inadvertently brought ecstasy in to the media spotlight. Following a yr of heavy use, they began showing rapid intellectual decrease. There is a lot confusion and misconception that was caused by a widely published study that 'MDMA created openings in the mind of these teens'. Although this is often interpreted to imply a physical gap, the 'gap' being referred to was a lack of neural activity shown on the MRI scans. Depending on where the 'hole' existed, proclaimed cognitive decrease was shown in patterns related to the effected lobe. If the poor frontal gyrus was harmed from MDMA, then your user possessed difficulty speaking, and sometimes even difficulty comprehending formerly known vocabulary.

A symptoms including hyperthermia and renal inability has also been reported with MDMA use, results like the ecstatic delirium of cocaine use. While the user's brain has been 'cooked properly' from the hyperthermia, the individual often just seems (and shows up) a little sweaty. Because MDMA is often used at get-togethers where everyone is high, often no person notices unless the user overdoses and goes by out. In addition, folks using MDMA may experience fast liver failure that may appear days to weeks following the medication was used (Scully et al, 2001).

The neurological ramifications of drug abuse are now being longitudinally examined with MRI, SPECT, and a bunch of other imagining software. SPECT scans have shown a few common abnormalities in material abusers in brain areas regarded as involved in action, like the frontal and temporal lobes. There are a few SPECT similarities and differences between the destruction we see caused by the various substances that are abused.

There is apparently several similarities seen among classes of abused drugs. The most frequent similarity among medication and alcohol abusers is the fact the brain has an overall dangerous appearance. In general, the SPECT check out studies look less productive, more shriveled, and overall less healthy. Scalloping is a tough sea-like look on the brain's surface that sometimes appears in long-term medicine abusers. This design is also observed in patients subjected to dangerous fumes or oxygen deprivation.

SPECT are a good idea in evaluating the effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain. On 3D surface brain images, several chemicals of abuse may actually show consistent patterns. For instance, cocaine and methamphetamine maltreatment seem as multiple small holes across the cortical surface; heroin abuse appears as marked decreased activity over the entire cortical surface; heavy pot abuse shows lowered activity in the temporal lobes bilaterally and heavy alcoholic beverages abuse shows designated decreased activity throughout the brain. Luckily these anomalies have a tendency to improve with abstinence, although long term use has been associated with extended intellectual deficits seen years after abstinence.

The new clearer brain imaging techniques are helpful in several ways regarding drug and alcohol misuse. First, 3D surface SPECT brain images of drug and alcohol abusers can be utilized in drug reduction education. Second, SPECT studies can help break although denial that often accompanies drug abuse. When is faced with the unnatural appearance of the brain it is harder to stay in denial. Third, SPECT can help examine when there is an underlying neuropsychiatric condition that needs treatment, which in some instances lead to self-medicating. If the condition is effectively cured, then the odds of the user's recovery is much increased.

In American culture, the public's judgment of cannabis has been changing in one extreme to some other for almost a hundred years. Now the arguments have been relatively silenced as a result of scientific evidence known about pot use. On average, marijuana contains roughly 400 carcinogens (cancer tumor causing providers). When compared to tobacco's around 350 carcinogens, you can see how detrimental weed truly is. It has been most associated with neck of the guitar cancer, but the experimental study of this medicine has been difficult. Although weed is not physically addicting, it is without a doubt psychologically addicting.

In the following SPECT scans, you can view that marijuana will not only cause cancer, but has a negative cognitive effect on users, especially on frequent weed users. The consequences of smoking marijuana typically cause decreased activity in the posterior temporal lobes bilaterally. The destruction can be slight to severe, depending about how long a person used, how much use occurred, and what other chemicals were use through the same time frame. Like many neurological problems, it now looks that certain individuals have a predisposition to get brain destruction from smoking pot (even if they are a light end user).

Steady Marijuana Use

3 year record of 4x each week use

Decreased PFC and temporal lobe activity

2 year record of daily abuse

decreased prefrontal and temporal lobe

12 Years of Daily Use

Decreased PFC and Temporal Lobe Activity

10 Years of weekend use

Decreased PFC and temporal lobe

Off and On Pot Use


Decreased PFC and temporal lobe activity


Severe Overall Lowered activity


Increased deep left temporal lobe activity


Overall calming of activity


Patchy increased uptake


Overall calming of activity

The pictures above with heavy cannabis utilization shows overall decreased activity of the complete brain, especially in the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes. This damage causes an individual to get problems positioning their attention on a given task, even tasks they enjoy. The user's memory space is also adversely effected by the harm to the prefrontal cortex. Folks have often joked in regards to a 'stoners' bad storage area, and this is now empirically proven. Although some individuals believe only short-term recollection is effected, this is really false. Events that happen while a person is 'high' are usually more difficult to keep in mind, and sometimes are completely overlooked. Another major problem with pot use, concerns its amotivational results. Marijuana smokers are more and more lazy as frequency of use elevates. You will discover exceptions to this, but hardly ever with heavy users. The negative effects on an individual's intrinsic drive, is perhaps most obviously with daily abuse. It appears storage is the first cognitive part effected, followed by global attention problems, and finally self-motivation becomes quite difficult for the addict.

These problems are of enough value to be observed by people that knew an individual before weed use began. The overall mental drop is insidious, which means user rarely looks for help. Unlike heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, people that use weed typically do not see their behavior as especially dangerous. Most weed users choose friends that also get high. They often smoke the pot in small teams and in homes that are 'pot' friendly. This further solidifies their idea (or even more likely, their rationalization) that cannabis is not damaging. So the much longer they use, the more and more their group of friends and sociable support become intertwined with weed. This pattern makes an individual extremely unlikely to seek help for their dependency. . . unless they end up in legal trouble. Making the American general public alert to the empirical data regarding the unsafe effects of cannabis is necessary to eliminate the mis-information that both pro and anti-marijuana organizations have spread for decades.

The following are some high res SPECT images obtained from drug abusers in comparison to a normal brain. WHEN I mentioned before, the addicted brain produces images that are shockingly similar to individuals that have been deprived of oxygen or subjected to dangerous waste.

A brain that is working properly produces smooth/gradual changes in color on the SPECT images and contains no spaces. Abrupt changes in color and the 'holes' indicate lowered overall neural activity in that region.

Normal Brain Activity (Above)

Heroin & Methadone Use (Below)

25 years of recurrent heroin use

Marked overall reduced activity

47 years on methadone

after 10 years of heroin

Marked decreased overall activity

28 years frequent meth use

multiple holes across cortical surface

2 years history of consistent cocaine use

Multiple openings across cortical surface

8 many years of heavy meth use

marked overall reduced activity

10 many years of consistent meth use

Multiple slots across cortical surface

17 many years of heavy alcohol weekend use

marked overall lowered activity

22 Many years of Daily Liquor Abuse

18 many years of daily alcohol use

Marked overall lowered activity

25 years of daily liquor abuse

Marked overall lowered activity

Thankfully, recent SPECT imaging studies have found out some good reports for the addict in recovery. The following images show the toxic looking brain effected by drugs, and the same brain a 12 months later following the patient was able to stay 'clean' from drugs. A recognizable improvement can been observed in neurological functioning after 12 months of abstinence for both alcoholic beverages and element abusers. The brain is miraculously able to recover from some of the neural harm.

1 Season of Sobriety SPECT Comparisons

During product abuse

One year medication free

During Substance Abuse

One year drug free

However, this evidence does not claim that an individual in restoration will feel completely heal emotionally. Evidence has yet found that the brain is with the capacity of dealing with extreme degrees of dopamine and serotonin In individuals that misuse drugs that result the user's dopamine receptors (eg. , opiates, amphetamines) the addict struggles with regulating their thoughts for the rest with their life. Specifically, the capability to maintain an optimistic mood, is sluggish to recover from the drug abuse. This occurs because the mind learns to adjust to the high degrees of dopamine (and likely serotonin) that are really elevated through the drug's 'high' peak points. The brain perceives 'delight' or 'contentment' when levels are above the baseline of neurotransmitter activity. Attaining an even of neurotransmitter activity necessary to be above this new standard, is very difficult. Sadly, oftentimes of permanent drug abuse (especially heroin and methamphetamine), the recovering addict reviews never again truly being the amount of contentment they use to experience naturally. Currently research workers are trying to find ways to assist the mind in responding to the natural levels of neurotransmitters which were skewed with drugs. This might be a great tool for individuals trying to recuperate from long-term drug abuse.

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