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How Does Drug Use Affect My Brain?

Substance abuse greatly impacts people’s mind and body. The short-lived euphoric feeling gives way to longer term challenges brought on by chronic drug use. Neurological risks can be fatal unless a person seeks help for addiction. Learn more about the impact of drugs on the brain.

Effect of Drugs

Central nervous system stimulants (CNS) such as cocaine and meth speed up brain activity, blood pressure, and heart rate. Strokes are a risk for people who use or abuse stimulants.

Methamphetamine (meth)

Meth can cause permanent damage to brain cells. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter involved in the reward pathway of the brain. Decreased levels of dopamine have been linked to risk of Parkinson’s disease.


Seizures and cardiac arrest are two of the leading causes of cocaine-related deaths. Long-term cocaine abuse may cause a process known as ‘kindling,’ whereby it takes smaller doses over time to induce the same negative effects. Sensitization may occur where symptoms of paranoia or other issues get worse with continued cocaine use.


Chronic alcohol consumption, especially when paired with poor nutrition, can lead to neurological damage over time. It is common for someone afflicted by alcoholism to be deficient in many areas including lack of essential vitamins.


Opioids are comprised of prescription painkillers, including Vicodin, Percocet, and oxycodone, to name a few. Long-term use can negatively impact the brain and the ability to handle stress, regulate behavior, and make good decisions. The brain function is altered, sometimes permanently, if a person does not seek help.

Drugs and the Reward Pathway

The mesolimbic dopamine system is the brain’s reward pathway which connects a number of different structures. Dopamine communicates with the memory centers of the brain, telling them to store the pleasurable feelings associated with an activity so it can be repeated later on. Drugs hijack the reward pathway. Without the drug, a substance user will find less pleasure from natural rewards. It is important to seek help for addiction because there is help available to cope with the challenges of addiction and recovery.

The Serenity Recovery Center supports you no matter what your journey has been with addiction. Our professional staff will help assess your case and provide the best treatment possible. Call us to find out how we can support your journey to recovery.We are available 24/7 at our toll-free number: 844-339-6964. Call now.