Advocacy organizations that spread awareness of the risks of drug abuse have done a good job of helping the American populace understand some of the dangers. For instance, it’s a widely-known truism that alcohol kills brain cells. However, this isn’t exactly the case; alcohol is a neurotoxin and can cause brain damage, but the mechanisms are more complex. However, it and most of the other most frequently abused substances have the potential to cause brain damage and death when misused.
Drugs Disrupt Normal Brain Function
At a baseline level, all addictive drugs can damage the brain by disrupting its normal function and fostering dependency. Addiction itself is a brain condition, after all, one which makes it increasingly necessary to continue using the drug just to feel normal and to be able to function. Attempting to quit forces your brain to work at a severe deficit of essential chemicals and compounds, producing withdrawals until the brain is able to adjust and make up the shortfall.
Withdrawals are as much a real symptom of physical harm as the symptoms of pneumonia or any other disease. While they vary from one drug to the next, the effects tend to be the extreme opposite of the drug. For instance, benzos reduce stress and anxiety, but benzo withdrawals come with paranoia and psychological stress that put the person at an increased risk of suicide. While alcohol is a depressant that reduces nervous system activity, alcohol withdrawals can overload your system to the point of causing profuse sweating, seizures, and may be life-threatening.
Lasting Drug-Induced Brain Damage
Lasting brain damage from drug abuse comes in many forms, such as the long-term degradation of neurotoxins or hypoxic brain injuries that may occur after a non-fatal opioid overdose. Using drugs in the long-term can reduce your cognitive function by degrading the pathways of the brain or even by killing brain cells outright.
Alcohol Has Immediate and Long-Term Negative Effects
While people drink alcohol to seek out its short-term effects, these can be even more dangerous than the long-term effects. Poor decision-making under the influence results in thousands of drunk driving accidents every year, but chronic alcohol usage results in inescapable long-term harm.
As alcohol interrupts the transmission of signals through the brain, using it chronically causes all sorts of negative effects on the brain. Rather than outright killing brain cells, it degrades the structures that your brain uses to send and receive information signals. To make matters worse, alcohol also makes it hard for your brain to generate new brain cells and repair itself as it would naturally. While quitting will improve this state, severe drinking tends to bring some level of permanent cognitive decline.
Benzodiazepines Possess Neurotoxic Qualities
While the effects of benzos are not as well explored as more commonly abused substances, it does appear to be likely that benzos have neurotoxic effects. While short-term usage to treat issues such as insomnia or stress doesn’t appear to cause harm, long-term use or excessively high dosages can cause lasting brain degeneration.
Drugs such as Adderall contain amphetamines that help people with executive function disorders control their attention and function properly. However, amphetamines have noted neurotoxic effects in long-term use.
Opioid Overdose Can Cause Brain Injuries
Opioids such as heroin and fentanyl can cause the heart to stop during an overdose, and urgent care is necessary to prevent death. However, as soon as a person begins to experience the effects of overdose their brain can begin being strangled for oxygen. It only takes a few minutes without oxygen to kill the brain, and even brief periods without adequate oxygen supply can cause lasting harm.
Quit With Help From America’s Rehab Campuses
In extreme cases, drug abuse can cause death or irreversible brain damage. However, even the harm of severe addiction can largely be overcome with the right care and treatment. If you’re worried about the costs of addiction or need help getting clean, reach out to Americas Rehab Campuses today to speak with one of our health care professionals.