How Drugs Affect the Brain

Drugs are chemicals. As a person places the chemicals inside their body, either by injecting, smoking, eating, or inhaling them, they’ll tap into their brain’s communication system then interrupt the way nerve cells usually receive, send, and process data. Different drugs—due to their chemical composure—operate differently. There are at the minimum of two ways in which drugs work inside the brain:

  • Imitate your brain’s natural chemical messengers
  • Overstimulate the brain’s “reward circuit” 

A handful of drugs, such as heroin and marijuana, possess chemical structures which copy that of a neurotransmitter which naturally occurs inside the body. As a matter of fact, those drugs may “fool” the receptors, lock onto them then activate your nerve cells. But, they do not operate the same way as natural neurotransmitters, and neurons end up sending irregular messages all through the brain that may cause issues both for our brains and our bodies.

Pleasure Effect/“High” From Drugs
The majority of drugs of abuse—cocaine, nicotine, marijuana, and other ones—affect your brain’s “reward” circuit (part of your limbic system). Generally, this reward circuit will respond to pleasure feelings by releasing dopamine (a neurotransmitter). Dopamine leads to feelings of pleasure. Drugs will take control of the pleasure system, and cause massive quantities of dopamine to flood your system. This dopamine flood is what leads to the intense excitement or happiness or “high” (occasionally referred to as euphoria) connected with drug use.

Repeat Effect
After drug use is repeated, the brain begins adjusting to dopamine’s surges. Neurons might start reducing the amount of dopamine receptors or merely create less dopamine. The result includes less dopamine signaling inside the brain—like turning the volume down on a dopamine signal. Because a few drugs are toxic, a few neurons additionally might die. As a consequence, the capability of feeling any pleasure is decreased.