The effects of drugs on the brain By Benedetta Botter

The brain is the central system of our body and it is made up of many parts, which all work together carrying out their specific jobs to make our body function. However something in the system happens when taking drugs: in fact, when the drugs enter the brain, they interfere with the system’s normal processing, which starts to work less efficiently. Over time, the brain can’t get enough of drugs and can’t stop using them even when it really wants it: this is a devastating brain disease called addiction, that could eventually lead to terrible health, physical and mental consequences. Many people however, don't think about drugs as a risk or a problem, but as a solution...

This image clearly represents how drugs can alter the processing in the brain, in a general point of view

Stimulant drugs- Stimulant drugs increase attention and alertness, and act in a very similar way to the family of neurotransmitters, which are brain chemicals that enable communication between brain cells, called monoamines, which include norepinephrine and dopamine: dopamine creates a feeling of pleasure, which is what causes the extreme excitement linked to drug use. Stimulants also increase blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose and open up breathing passages.

These types of drugs were historically used to treat respiratory problems like asthma and obesity, but after their potential for abuse and addiction became evident, their medical use began to fade: as a result, today stimulants are prescribed to only cure a few health conditions like narcolepsy and occasionally depression. Moreover, stimulant drugs cause more neurotransmitter molecules to diffuse across the body.

Depressant drugs- Depressants are drugs that temporarily diminish the normal function of the brain and the central nervous system, so a calming effect is produced: most of these depressants affect one of the brain’s neurotransmitters called gammaaminobutyric acid (GABA), which works by decreasing brain activity. Depressants stop the next neuron sending nerve impulses.

Doctors use them to treat conditions like insomnia and anxiety and when prescribed by doctors, these drugs can be beneficial as a cure to lots of medical problems, however the problem happens when people take too much of them and the effect is even worse if they are taken with alcohol or other drugs: this can slow the heart and breathing enough to cause death.

  • Bibliography:
  • https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/brain-and-addiction
  • https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/how-drugs-affect-the-brain/
  • https://teens.drugabuse.gov/teachers/mind-over-matter/teachers-guide/effects-drugs-abuse-brain
  • https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/prescription-drugs/stimulants/what-are-stimulants
  • http://www.treatment4addiction.com/drugs/depressants/
  • http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/depressants.html#
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science/ocr_gateway/understanding_organisms/drugs_and_yourev1.shtml

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