3 Studies that Show the Physical Impact of Drug Abuse

Drug abuse has a negative impact on the body – you don’t need a study to tell you that. But what exactly does using drugs do to the body? How do drugs negatively affect our heart, brain, nervous systems or other body parts?

Numerous studies have been conducted that look into these very questions. Such studies show the physical and biological differences that drug use – especially long term drug abuse – can have on the body and mind.

Study 1: Smoking Marijuana Reduces Brain Function

One study, published in the journal PNAS in late 2014, found that chronic marijuana use led to less gray matter in the orbital frontal cortex of the brain, which is a region that is responsible for the brain’s reward, motivation, decision-making and addictive behaviors network. According to this LA Times article, marijuana use causes this area of the brain to function differently than it does in those who don’t use pot.

Researchers also noted that one unanswered question is whether this change in the brain’s grey matter and functionality reverses once the individual has stopped using marijuana. They also noted that the IQ of the marijuana-using group in the study was significantly lower than the non-using group. This tells us that drug use, such as marijuana, could affect intelligence levels.

Study 2: Drug Use Changes the Brain’s Structure

Another study from researchers at Harvard and Northwestern University reviewed the brain scans of 20 marijuana smokers between the ages of 18 to 25. Results showed that even among participants who only smoked pot once or twice a week, there were clear structural differences in two major parts of the brain. Results also showed that the more often a participant smoked marijuana, the greater the differences in brain structure.

The areas that exhibited such clear changes are “at the core of motivation, the core of pleasure and pain, and every decision that you make,” said Dr. Hans Breiter, co-author of the study and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern’s medical school, in a New York Times article.

Study 3: Methamphetamine Causes More Brain Damage in Teens

While abusing methamphetamine is dangerous and can cause damage to the body in individuals of any age, one study found that it’s especially dangerous among teens. MRI brain scans of 51 teens and 54 adults who were chronic methamphetamine abusers were compared to brain scans of 60 teens and 60 adults who did not use the drug. The comparison showed that the teen methamphetamine users had greater brain damage, especially in the frontal cortex, than the non-users. This is the area of the brain most responsible for cognitive function (memory, reasoning, etc.)

“Damage to that part of the brain is especially problematic because adolescents’ ability to control risk behavior is less mature than that of adults,” said study author Dr. In Kyoon Lyoo, in a HealthDay article.

All three of the above studies demonstrate that drug abuse has a direct effect on the body – especially the brain. Every day spent abusing drugs is one more day of havoc for your brain. Don’t let this happen to you. Contact Talbott Recovery today to learn more about drug abuse and addiction treatment programs.

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