The Link Between Drug Use and Brain Damage

Using drugs, especially over a prolonged period of time, makes severe physical changes to the human brain. While drugs are also capable of altering the brain in the short-term, such as nitrous oxide, frequency and length of use play a major role. Often, many drugs will play a significant role in one’s likelihood of developing neurodegenerative brain complications later in life, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Researchers have found that methamphetamine use can affect the brain in a similar manner as traumatic brain injuries. People are generally under the impression that the effects of drugs wear off as soon as the intoxication of the drug wears off, but methamphetamine can cause severe problems in the long-term. University of Florida researchers studied the effects of MDMA and methamphetamine in the brain and found that the drugs “lead to the same type of brain changes, cell loss and protein fluctuations in the brain that occur after a person endures a sharp blow to the head,” according to Science Daily.
Firas Kobeissy, a postdoctoral associate in the College of Medicine department of psychiatry said, “Using methamphetamine is like inflicting a traumatic brain injury on yourself. We found that a lot of brain cells are being injured by these drugs. That’s alarming to society now. People don’t seem to take club drugs as seriously as drugs such as heroin or cocaine.” However, the potential effects on the brain from taking club drugs and methamphetamine can be quite severe.
The study, published in the journal of Biological Psychiatry, Methamphetamine- and Trauma-Induced Brain Injuries: Comparative Cellular and Molecular Neurobiological Substrates, explains,  “METH abuse has been linked to numerous adverse neuropsychological effects showing deficits in execution memory (novel problem solving), motor skills, and episodic memory.” The study also points out that both people suffering from drug addiction and people with traumatic brain injuries share many similar neurological symptoms, such as “apathy, poor self-control, and poor executive control.”
Methamphetamine and MDMA are not the only drugs that can cause severe brain damage. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, some drugs can cause damage to the brain via seizures, stroke, or direct toxicity on brain cells. The NIDA explains, “repeated drug use leads to changes in the function of multiple brain circuits that control pleasures/reward, stress, decision-making, impulse control, learning and memory, and other functions.” Some, but not all, of the damage to the brain caused by drug use is reversible.

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