By Alexander Okoh
Last week, there was a heated conversation between two graduate’s on the social media. The first graduate told the second graduate (science student) in quote ” Bro stop doing drugs because its affecting you” and the second graduate replied by saying “I would rather take drugs and be smart than getting perpetually chained and tangled in the web of ignorance and illiteracy under the shed of graduate….graduate my foot!.
Obviously, that was his way of attacking the first graduate but what he didn’t understand was that drug abuse and misuse can be harmful to the brain especially when it’s used over a long period of time. After a minute, I chipped in and said “Drugs dulls the brain overtime, by reducing the neurotransmitters in the brain, and trust me once its done with you, you’re not gonna end up like Olamide, your gonna end up in a rehab.
Surprisingly after I said this, someone asked what evidence I had. This made me begin to understand that even though people hear about the effects of drug abuse day in and day out, they still see it as a media stunt or believe that their body is immune to damage and that they can control it until finally they can’t.
But before we get go into the effects of drug abuse on the brain, I would like you to understand how people get addicted to drugs in the first place.
At this stage, the person is probably trying out the drug whether its alcohol, cocaine, marijuana or shisha. He or she wants to see what it does to the body. It could even be with a couple of friends.
The person begins to use the drugs more frequently which can range from once to three times a week or even more depending on the individual.
At this point, the individual can no longer function without taking this drugs. A person who is addicted to a certain type or mixture of drugs can go to any length to get this drugs, even as far as selling their properties and stealing money to get it. It begins to affect their daily life like their relationship with their loved ones and friends and can also affect their function at work. Now at this point, I am sure you are wondering why they just don’t stop using this drugs, but they can’t because most of the drugs cause what is called withdrawal symptoms which are series of bodily reactions like sweating, increased heartbeat, depression, anxiety, muscle aches, vomiting and insomnia following the non use of the drugs. This withdrawal symptoms vary according to the drug used.
It is important to note that drugs have the ability to release extremely high level dopamine, which is the same neuro transmitter released when we eat, have sex or do anything pleasurable. This occurs almost immediately or after some minutes, depending on the substance abused.
It can affects memory and bodily coordination
According to a recent study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, chronic cannabis smokers are more susceptible to false memories, even after not consuming cannabis for a month. This was proven by a team of researchers from the Human Neuropsychopharmacology group at the Biomedical Research Institute of Hospital de Sant Pau and from the Autonomous University of Barcelona when they explored cognitive function in chronic marijuana smokers and their ability to distinguish between real and false memories.
Smoking also led to a less active hippocampus, which is the area of the brain associated with storing and retrieving memories.
Drugs like alcohol also have effect on the brain which affects bodily coordination. Have you ever wondered why you’re told not to drunk drive?. The reason is that when a person is drunk, the first structure in the brain which is hit by alcohol is the cerebellum which is responsible for the sense of coordination and balance of the body. As a result, someone who is drunk becomes unstable, talks and walks in a disorganized fashion and can’t even drive a car. Also someone who is drunk might have series of blackout which is not being able to remember anything that happened during when he or she was drunk.
It can lead to suicidal thoughts by altering a persons mood.
Drugs like alcohol and codiene when abused, can have damaging effects on the brain with depression being at the forefront. When these drugs have been abused by an individual over a long period of time, there is tendency for drug induced withdrawal symptoms such as depression, insomnia and craving for the drug. At this point, the individual is in a desperate need of the drug and is not able to get a good night sleep because to him or her, that is their only source of happiness. Depression which is an extreme state of sadness sets in and the person might begin contemplating suicide because they can’t stand the physical and mental pain of withdrawal and the sadness they feel.
Also psychoactive drug like ecstasy has been known to trigger elevated serotonin level which causes short term euphoria, but depletes overtime. Chronic ecstacy users, for example, were found to have 50%-80% lower concentrations of serotonin.
The downside to this is that serotonin is a chemical messenger in the brain responsible for mood balancing and low level can cause depression and suicidal thoughts.