One of the chief concerns of substance abuse surrounds long-term impacts on many parts of the body, including the brain. Several forms of substance abuse may increase the risks to brain chemistry and long-term brain functions, including prescription drugs that are misused from their original purpose.
At Moonlight Mountain Recovery, we offer high-quality prescription drug rehabilitation programs for a variety of patients dealing with substance abuse issues for several different prescription products. Knowing how prescription drug abuse may negatively impact the brain is important for a few reasons – including increasing the likelihood that those abusing these drugs will realize the negative impact it’s having and seek out help. With this in mind, here’s a look at some of the most important areas to understand about how prescription drug abuse impacts the brain, breaking this conversation down into some of the most commonly abused prescription drug types.
One of the most well-known prescription drug types, especially in recent years as rates of abuse have skyrocketed, are opioids. These drugs are designed to offer pain relief but also include a strong sense of euphoria that has made them attractive to those looking for a high. Commonly prescribed opioids include products like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and codeine, among others. Opioids work by binding to receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body, and this action is what produces pain-relieving effects. Unfortunately, it’s also this same mechanism of action that can produce several negative side effects, including slowed breathing and a sense of sedation. When abused, these drugs may be taken in higher doses than recommended or taken more frequently than intended, and this can lead to an overdose. In fact, opioids are responsible for more overdose deaths than any other type of drug, and this is one of the biggest dangers associated with their abuse.
In addition to the risks of an overdose, taking opioids regularly can also lead to both short- and long-term effects on the brain. Some of the possible former impacts include:
- Major mood changes: Some people may feel more energetic while others may feel depressed when taking opioids, and this can be a result of changes in the brain’s chemistry.
- Cognitive impairment: Opioids can also lead to problems with memory, decision-making, and focus.
- Sensory changes: Many people report experiencing a heightened sense of sight and sound when taking opioids, and this can be accompanied by a decreased sense of pain.
Long-term effects from opioid abuse are also possible and may include:
- Brain damage: Studies have shown that chronic abuse of opioids can lead to changes in the brain’s structure and function.
- Increased risk of mental health problems: People who abuse opioids are also more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety.
- Drug dependence: Regular abuse of opioids can lead to a physical dependence on the drug, and this can be accompanied by severe withdrawal symptoms if usage is stopped.
Another commonly abused type of prescription drug are stimulants, and these are typically prescribed for disorders like ADHD or narcolepsy. Stimulants work by increasing levels of certain chemicals in the brain, and this action leads to increased alertness and energy. Commonly prescribed stimulants include Adderall, Ritalin, and Dexedrine, among others.
Like opioids, taking stimulants regularly can lead to both short- and long-term effects on the brain. Some of the possible former impacts include:
- Anxiety: Many people feel more anxious when taking stimulants, and this can be due to the increased levels of chemicals in the brain.
- Paranoia: Some people may also experience paranoid thoughts when taking stimulants, and this can be a result of the drugs affecting how the brain processes information.
- Decreased blood flow: From a physical perspective, stimulants can also lead to decreased blood flow to the brain, and this can impact cognitive function.
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate: Stimulants can also lead to an increased heart rate and blood pressure, and this can be dangerous for people with underlying conditions.
Long-term effects from stimulant abuse are also possible, particularly to the brain. Some people may experience:
- Brain damage: Studies have shown that chronic abuse of stimulants can lead to changes in the brain’s structure and function.
- Psychiatric disorders: People who abuse stimulants are also more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety.
- Dependence: Regular use of stimulants can lead to a physical dependence on the drug, and this can be accompanied by severe withdrawal symptoms if usage is stopped.
Sedatives and Anti-Anxiety Drugs
Another category of commonly abused prescription drugs are sedatives and anti-anxiety medications, which work by depressing the central nervous system. This category includes drugs like Xanax, Valium, and Ativan, among others.
Sedatives and anti-anxiety medications are often prescribed to help people deal with conditions like anxiety or insomnia, but they can be very dangerous when misused. Like other types of drugs, taking sedatives and anti-anxiety medications can lead to both short- and long-term effects on the brain. Some of the possible former impacts include:
- Drowsiness: One of the most common side effects of these drugs is drowsiness, and this can impact a person’s ability to drive or operate machinery.
- Confusion: These drugs can also lead to confusion and difficulty thinking clearly.
- Impaired judgement: Sedatives and anti-anxiety medications can also impair a person’s judgement, and this can lead to risky behaviors like driving while under the influence.
Long-term effects from sedative and anti-anxiety drugs will vary depending on the individual, but some of the possible impacts include:
- Brain damage: Studies have shown that chronic abuse of these drugs can lead to changes in the brain’s structure and function.
- Dependence: Regular use of sedatives and anti-anxiety medications can lead to a physical dependence on the drug, and this can be accompanied by severe withdrawal symptoms if usage is stopped.
- Psychiatric disorders: People who abuse sedatives and anti-anxiety medications are also more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety.
Abuse of prescription drugs is a serious problem, and it can lead to both short- and long-term effects on the brain. If you or someone you know is abusing prescription drugs, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. There are many resources available, and treatment can make a big difference in the long run.
For more on this, or to learn about any of our substance abuse or other addiction recovery programs, speak to our caring staff at Moonlight Mountain Recovery today.