Alcoholism and addiction are probably the most misunderstood problems facing Americans today. I, along with other experts in the field, was recently featured in an article, 6 Things You Should Know about Addiction.
One of the biggest challenges about addiction that the non-addicted person doesn’t always understand about addiction is that it’s a brain disease. It literally changes the brain of the person using the substance, and sometimes in a permanent way.
Methamphetamine use, in particular, causes long-term damage to the brain and we aren’t sure that the brain ever fully recovers from this. Take a look at the pictures below from the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
This picture shows the recovery rate of the brain in terms of dopamine connecting to dopamine receptors with the red areas noted being the highest areas where dopamine is able to bind to its receptors. Notice that the picture on the furthest left is of a healthy person, the one in the middle is of a person who has been abstinent from meth use for one month and the one on the furthest right is of a person that’s been abstinent from meth use for 14 months. Notice, also, that after one month of abstinence, the person has very little dopamine binding as indicated by the lack of red color on the brain.
Check out The Meth Project and The Colorado Meth Project for additional information. The Meth Project and the Colorado Meth Project aim to inform the public about the dangers of meth use through public service messages, policy, and community outreach.
Alcohol, as well, can have significant consequences for the brain. In the later stages of alcoholism, a person can develop Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s psychosis, two illnesses that together are more commonly referred to as “wet brain” or “alcoholic dementia”. These illnesses can result in permanent brain damage, and in about 20% of cases, death if left untreated or if the person does not stop drinking. Learn more about Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s psychosis.
Regardless of the drug used or alcohol taken, even small amounts of substances can impact brain and body functioning.
If you or someone you know has a problem with drugs, alcohol, or another addiction, please seek help.