How Do Drugs Affect the Brain?

How Do Drugs Affect the Brain?

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How Does The Brain Work?

The brain is made up of billions of neurons, which are arranged into circuits and networks. Every neuron functions as a switch to manage the information flow. A neuron will fire and transmit its own signal to the other neurons in the circuit if it gets enough signals from the other neurons to which it is linked. This is why the brain is frequently compared to an extremely sophisticated and intricate computer.

The brain is composed of numerous interconnected circuits that function as a team. Different brain circuits are in charge of coordinating and carrying out particular tasks. A neuron releases a neurotransmitter into the space (or synapse) between it and the following cell to convey a message. Like a key into a lock, the neurotransmitter enters the synapse and binds to receptors on the receiving neuron. The receiving cell experiences modifications as a result. In order to limit or stop the transmission between neurons, other molecules known as transporters return the signal to the neuron that first released it.

This complicated process is a wiring system of messages sent throughout the brain that tells your body what it is experiencing or what actions to take. Read on to learn how do drugs affect the brain.

How Do Drugs Affect the Brain?

Drugs can delay or speed up the central nervous system as well as vital autonomic processes, including blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, and body temperature. And essentially alter the messages sent in the brain. Below are some examples of what changes are made and by which drugs:


This neurotransmitter influences motivation, mobility, reward- and reinforcement-related behaviors, pleasure, mood regulation, and attention.

Drugs that affect dopamine: Heroin, other opioids, stimulants, ecstasy, PCP, and marijuana


This neurotransmitter is in charge of regulating emotions and keeping moods stable.

Drugs that affect serotonin: Cocaine, alcohol, ecstasy, and psychedelic drugs


Gamma-aminobutyric acid operates as a natural tranquilizer, reducing anxiety and the stress response while also slowing down central nervous system activities.

Drugs that affect GABA: Benzodiazepines, morphine, nicotine, and cocaine


Norepinephrine is frequently referred to as the “stress hormone,” much like adrenaline, because it accelerates the central nervous system in reaction to the “fight-or-flight” response. In addition, it improves focus and attentiveness while boosting energy.

Drugs that affect Norepinephrine: Amphetamines, cocaine, opioids, and ecstasy

What Parts of the Brain are Affected by Drugs?

The limbic system, cerebral cortex, and brain stem are all impacted.

Limbic System

The limbic system houses the brain’s reward circuitry and aids in controlling emotions and the capacity to experience happiness.

Brain Stem

The brain stem regulates vital life-sustaining processes, including breathing, heart rate, and sleep.

Cerebral Cortex

The cerebral cortex is regarded as the “thinking center” of the brain because it controls cognitive functions, including problem-solving, planning, and decision-making, as well as aids in the processing of sensory data.

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