How Do Drugs Affect Intelligence?

drug addict

There are many serious long-term effects of drug abuse on your health and the consequences can be devastating. Drugs can affect the brain, bringing changes in brain chemistry, and nerve functioning, and damage to brain cells and nerve cells. This can eventually lead to:

  • Loss of memory
  • Decreased cognitive ability
  • Negative effects on learning processes

People who are addicted to drugs for long periods often cannot remember things, become easily confused, and become weak in making good decisions. This is all because their intelligence has suffered from drug usage.

Addiction is defined as a neuropsychological disorder that is characterized by an insistent and intense desire to use a drug, despite substantial harm and other negative consequences. Repetitive drug use often hinders brain function in ways that conserve craving and decreases self-control.

Drug abuse can have irreversible long-term effects on your intelligence capabilities. Drugs change the brain so that addicts feel as though they need drugs to function in a normal way. They prioritize drug use above all else, as they think that only drugs can make it through the day, without the pain of withdrawal.

While using drugs, the brain becomes crowded with dopamine, which causes immense pleasure, or euphoria. Consistent exposure of brain cells to excessive dopamine over time, can damage the brain cells or even make them die. As the brain tries to tackle excessive dopamine levels, the way the brain functions through nerve signals changes. Some drugs affect the brain by attaching themselves to certain receptors that are responsible for sending, receiving, and interpreting brain signals. Attaching to these receptors prevents the body’s natural neurotransmitters from attaching to the receptors. This disables the neurotransmitters in relaying signals from the brain to the body. Drugs can also disrupt the brain signals and cause the brain to stop producing neurotransmitters necessary for functioning.

Drug abuse can cause blood vessels to become constricted, reducing blood flow to all areas of the body. Over time, this can lead to hardening and narrowing of the blood vessels, including those in the brain. When the tiniest blood vessels become constricted, blood can no longer reach certain areas of the brain. Over time these cells die off, leaving small gaps in the brain tissue. Once brain cells die, they cannot be regenerated.

female addict

Drug abuse alters cognitive activities such as decision-making and inhibition. Psychoactive drugs, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants can cause dementia and delirium. In addition, non-psychoactive drugs such as histamine H2 receptor antagonists, corticosteroids, NSAIDs (a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agent), and cardiac medications, may cause acute or chronic cognitive impairment.

From a psychological perspective, addiction is referred to as a disorder of altered cognition. Drug addiction affects the brain regions and processes that are involved in essential cognitive functions, including learning, memory, attention, reasoning, and impulse control.

Excessive substance use can cause memory loss. For instance, smoking reduces the amount of oxygen that gets to the brain, resulting in worsening your ability to form and recollect memories. Moreover, illegal drugs can change chemicals in the brain, which can make it hard to recall memories. Unfortunately, the effects of drug abuse on intelligence are most visible in those areas responsible for memory, cognition, and learning. The ability to learn, remember and use logical reasoning are all related to your intelligence level. When these areas of the brain are affected due to drug use, intelligence levels suffer as a result.

People mostly associate memory loss with any severe head injury or Alzheimer’s Disease. Although among the many side effects of substance abuse, one is memory loss. The use of recreational drugs like marijuana, opioids, ecstasy, and cocaine on regular basis can lead to memory loss or lapses in memory that may or may not be reversible.

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