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How Drugs Affect The Brain

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Substance abuse, addiction, and alcoholism negatively impact multiple aspects of your life, including your relationships, finances, and health. Drugs and alcohol create both psychological and physical addictions. However, both types of addictions are equally difficult to overcome. Since substance abuse disorders are chronic, incurable mental health disorders, you may wonder how drugs affect the brain.

How drugs affect the brain during substance abuse is a complex process. Addiction changes your brain chemistry, your pleasure and reward center, and your decision-making process. These changes make you experience intense cravings, especially when exposed to triggers.

An evidence based treatment center in St. Augustine, FL focuses on helping you recover from the physical, mental, and emotional changes addiction causes.


All drugs inhibit certain neurotransmitters, meaning that taking drugs causes your brain to release more neurotransmitters than it normally would. This rush of neurotransmitters is the root cause of the positive, euphoric affects you experience when you are high or intoxicated.

How drugs affect the brain is a complex process because it creates a severe neurotransmitter imbalance. While taking drugs immediately releases excessive amounts of neurotransmitters, when the effects wear off your brain is depleted of these neurotransmitters. A lack of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine can cause anxiety and depression, making you crave drugs more.

During addiction, the drugs effect on the brain make it important to not only successfully detox but to have a safe, supportive environment during recovery. The changes to your brain caused by addiction take time to overcome, as your brain has to relearn how to produce the proper amounts of neurotransmitters. Other ways that drugs affect your brain include:

  • Impairs cognition
  • Worsens memory and ability to recall past events
  • Changes the way you make decisions
  • Changes the way you perceive things
  • Creates intense cravings to use


Since addiction and substance abuse problems drastically change the way your brain works, proper treatment includes far more than just detoxing you from drugs. Detox typically takes 3 to 7 days, but the effects of withdrawal persist long after drugs are no longer in your system.

You can continue experiencing cravings for weeks, months and even years after you stop using. Triggers, which are people, places and things that result in cravings, are sometimes unavoidable. Learning how to not only identify your triggers but also how to cope with them, is an important goal during treatment.

Inpatient and outpatient programs offer both evidence-based and holistic treatments. Cognitive and dialectic behavioral therapy improve your ability to recognize negative thought patterns and change them. Understanding the root of negative thinking processes and emotions makes it easier to manage symptoms during the recovery process.


How drugs affect the brain during addiction makes recovery a difficult, time-consuming process. Since drugs and alcohol change your brain chemistry it is important to find help when you are battling an addiction. Pearl of the Sea Retreat, the best evidence based treatment center in St. Augustine, FL knows how to beat addiction. Call us today at 866-962-1907 to learn more about our premier programs and your treatment options.

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