Drugs affect our bodies in different ways because of their different chemical compositions. It’s fair to say that some drugs can alter someone’s body and brain long after they’ve stopped taking them. In some cases that could mean a permanent change for the worse. Here we take a closer look at the effects of drugs.
We know that most drugs will either directly or indirectly target the brain’s pleasure receptors by flooding the system with dopamine. This neurotransmitter occurs naturally in the brain and regulates movement, emotion, cognition, motivation, and crucially feelings of pleasure.
Dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter; a chemical released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells. The brain has several distinct dopamine systems and one of those is linked to reward motivated behaviour. Most types of reward increase our level’s of dopamine in the brain and addictive drugs can increase dopamine activity. It is these changes in brain chemistry that ultimately lead to compulsive drug use and addiction.
Drugs and alcohol are brain depressants that suppress the brain’s production of neurotransmitters, so when a person stops using drugs or alcohol the brain produces a surge of adrenaline that causes drug withdrawal symptoms.
Effects of drugs
Substance abuse causes more deaths, illnesses and disabilities than any other preventable health condition. The negative effects of drugs vary from accidental injuries, to domestic violence, medical conditions and in the most extreme cases: death.
Drug abuse and dependence can have extensive knock on physical effects affecting nearly every organ in the body. It can lead to a weakening of the immune system, which leads to greater susceptibility to infections.
Substance abuse can also result in cardiovascular conditions, from an abnormal heart rate to a full blown heart attack. The liver also has to work harder, when processing illicit substances, which can cause significant damage or liver failure in the longer term.
It can also lead to seizures, stroke and mental issues like memory problems, impaired attention and decision making and permanent brain damage. Behavioural issues can also become a concern, such as paranoia, aggressiveness, hallucinations, impaired judgment, impulsiveness, and loss of self-control.
Effects of drugs – Case study example
Dan, 24, from Liverpool, used to be a recreational cocaine user. He said: “A big night out for me and the lads used to always start with some beers and a couple of lines of coke at one of our flats. That was just what we did, we didn’t even think twice about it, and we felt invincible.
“It got to the point where we were ‘getting on it’ several times a week; even on weeknights. I’d go to work exhausted, couldn’t concentrate, and generally felt low for long periods afterwards.
“My constant yo-yoing mood swings were too much for my girlfriend and work colleagues. She broke off our relationships and I ended up getting suspended from work after a random drug test came back positive.
“I was at total rock bottom when I decided to reach out for Addiction support. I’d run up huge debts from my habit and had cut myself off from friends, family and colleagues. The Addiction counsellor put me in touch with specialist drug counsellors and a detox clinic that really helped me to curb my addiction.
“I’ve been clean for six months now. I don’t see those friends anymore and I’ve recently started a new relationship and a great new job. I honestly don’t miss that lifestyle. I genuinely feel happier than I ever did with cocaine. To be honest, Port of Call’s Addiction help has completely turned my life around.”
Contact Port of Call 0800 002 9010 (or 0330 111 2015 from mobiles) to find out more about our Addiction Services, including rehab, and how drug addiction can be treated through our network of addiction experts.
Disclaimer: Names and certain details have been changed to protect the identity of case study participants.