Drug Abuse and its effect on the brain

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Drug Abuse and its effect on the brain

Category: Research Paper

Subcategory: Gender and Sex

Level: College

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Drug abuse and its effect on the brain
Drug abuse is a growing public health problem. Today, the rate of drug abuse is on the increase. Drug abuse affects the families and every community in one way or the other. Each year, drug abuse accounts for morbidity and mortality burden globally. In America, drug abuse is one of the leading behavioral that causes many serious injuries and illnesses. Mostly abused drugs include prescription drugs like opioids, marijuana, inhalants, heroin, cocaine, club drugs, anabolic steroids and methamphetamine. Also, drug abuse are known to cause other major social problems like child abuse, stress, violence and drugged driving (NIDA, 3-29). Within the human body, the most complex organ is the brain. The brain is made of white and gray matter, does controls and direct all activities carried out. Despite the many parts of the brain, they all coordinate to ensure effective communication. Drug abuse has been on the increase today. While this is likely to pose various health problems in the general body, they have an adverse problem within the brain. Use of psychoactive drugs does alter the brain fundamental functions execution process. These drugs can relieve pain, produce weird mental pictures, sedate, stimulate, alter normal thinking frameworks or bring back to normal altered thinking frameworks. While some of these drugs are essential within the clinical settings, some have a severe negative impact on the society and the individual (Edelson, 1987). This research paper will explore drug abuse and its effect on the brain.
Drug abuse and the adolescent
The effects on a normal brain development process among the adolescent group are not clearly understood on drug abuse. However, studies show that drug use during the adolescent stage is likely to affect learning adversely. This is common among heavy and frequent drug abusers. While animal models have been used to help shade light on this issue, the model cannot be generalized with a high level of confidence since it has not been tried on human adolescent. Nevertheless, the animal model is fundamental in exploring substance use that can be detrimental to human if used for research. When adolescent rats were used to test the effect of alcohol abuse, the effect was quite acute with indicators of social disinhibition, sedation and motor coordination. Compared to adult rats, adolescent rats given alcohol did show that their prefrontal cortex region (essential for making a decision) was more damaged as well as brain region referred as working memory. Other areas of the adolescent rats’ brain were shown to become more damaged drastically when the rats continued being exposed to alcohol over a long period. Neocortex (language acquisition) and basal forebrain ( the region related to learning) were affected. From various human studies, like the rats, there is a wide body of theories that support heavy and regular alcohol consumption for a long period is likely to affect deleteriously learning. Rehabilitated adolescent from alcohol addiction did show that they had poorer performance on non-verbal and verbal memory when were compared to the control group. The control groups had been screened to rule out alcohol dependence history (Winters & Arrira, 21-24).
Among the adults, there has been less attention given to finding out the impacts of drug abuse. Most likely because in this group there are fewer cases of drug abusers recorded over decades especially in the US. But, with population increase, and adolescent turning to young adults’; there is a possibility of the adults, cases to raise.

Currently, there is increasing debate of the need to legalize marijuana for recreational and medical purposes. Nevertheless, the drug is one of most abused among the teens and possess some adverse brain effects. Despite much research, some other support that it such adverse effects is quite exaggerated.
Adverse effects
Addiction risk: Marijuana use for a longtime is likely to lead to addiction. Of the whole population, 9% of marijuana users is likely to get addicted in reference to DSM-IV criteria. This rate increases with age and frequency. For instance, among teenagers the ratio is 1:6 for those who begin using marijuana at this age; Among those who smoke this drug daily, the rate increase to 25-50%. Withdrawal syndromes of marijuana are common to addicts like anxiety, craving, dysphoria, sleeping difficulties and irritability. This withdrawal effect poses a great challenge in stopping the use and consequently leads to relapse. Among the adolescent, increased vulnerability is hypothesized to occur due to endocannabinoid system, and the brain as a whole undergoes a period of active development. Research show that, early and regular use of marijuana is a good indicator of increased addition risk, with those who begin consuming marijuana in young age being 2-4 times likely to develop cannabis dependence symptoms after two years of using the drug compared to the adults (Nora et al. 2219-2227).

Brain development effects
During childhood and through adolescent the brain is undergoing major developmental changes. The brain at this stage is vulnerable to severe and long-term effects of any environmental insult exposure. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) exposure to prenatal or adolescents “is likely to recalibrate the sensitivity of the reward system to other drugs. Hence, prenatal exposure alters cytoskeletal dynamics, which are fundamental for the establishment of axonal connections between neurons, (Nora et al. 2219-2227).” Adults, who regularly smoked marijuana in their adolescent compared to the control not exposed, were found to have fewer fibers (impaired neural connectivity) in certain regions of the brain. Such were the fimbria; this is a section within the hippocampus essential for memory and learning and precuneus; which is a key node whose primary role calls upon a function that require intense integration such as self-conscious awareness and alertness. In the prefrontal networks, there has been reduced functional connectivity whose work is to carry out an executive function that involves inhibitory control. Decreased functional connectivity has been also reported within the subcortical network that processes routines and habits. Also, imaging results show that the hippocampus of the marijuana users is seen to reduce in volume while prefrontal regions revealed decreased activity. Regular marijuana use is associated with increased rate of depression and anxiety though the cause is still not established (Nora et al. 2219-2227).

The aging brain and drug abuse effects
Among the aged, drug-induced neurotoxicity susceptibility is likely to increase with age in some cases. For instance, methamphetamine-induced toxicity sensitivity has shown to increase as human ages, compared to young people. A study with young animals compared with older ones, using lower doses did indicate greater morphological alterations, striatal dopamine reductions, and glial fibrillary acid protein increased levels. This is likely to indicate brain drug accumulation increase is related with age as it is found in amphetamine. Oxidative stress is highly diagnosed in various age-related diseases and is also a likely factor in methamphetamine-induced neurotoxicity. This is because there was an increase oxidative damage to older rats when exposed to methamphetamine which was also related to increased methamphetamine-induced-dopaminergic toxicity (Dowling, Weiss, and Condon, 209-218).

Chronic drug abuse is likely to intensify changes related to normal-age within the brain. Among cocaine abuser aged betwen20-50 years, the temporal and frontal lobe white matter maturation was seen to retard among those who abused the drug over time. Hence, compared to healthy population past 50 years, the chronic cocaine abusers are likely to show increased white matter decline. Also, cocaine-dependent abusers brain was shown to have numerous age-related lesions within the white matter (Dowling, Weiss & Condon, 209-218).
Some abused drugs are shown to carry protective elements to the neurons. For instance, although wealth information shows that cigarette use is harmful to health, despite this it is related to decline in cases of Parkinson’s disease; an aging disorder related to neurodegeneration. In another study, marijuana abuse has been related with prevalence disease decrease. Epidemiological studies argue that marijuana components may act as a neuronal protection against damage resulting from pro-inflammatory cytokines, reactive oxygen species, free radical and or glutamate-mediated exitotoxicity. Inflammatory and oxidative damage cases are common among the aging. They are known to contribute to various adverse health conditions related to old age like cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and ischemic stroke. In marijuana, the primary psychoactive component is Delat-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The THC has been found to decrease the production of the pro-inflammatory cytokine. Compared to the standard antioxidants, both non-psychoactive and THC marijuana where shown to work more or equal in toxicity prevention because of reactive oxygen species. Despite the significance of these drugs in neuroprotection, their adverse effects outweigh the benefits. However, this information is fundamental to the pharmacological field as a more targeted pharmacotherapies can be realized with an aim of treating or preventing some age-related diseases (Dowling, Weiss & Condon, 209-218).
Adolescent and drug abuse
There is a growing concern among adolescents and teenage abusing drugs. This is because; the earlier drug abuse starts the possibility of remaining addicted increases even into adulthood. This happens because during adolescent the group is undergoing through myriad biological and physical changes giving new experiences, exploration, and growth. Also, most abuse of drugs like prescriptive drug; opioids, as well as marijuana, alcohol, nicotine and tobacco cigarette smoking starts at this stage. Drug use in adolescent according to National Survey prescription drugs were most misused with marijuana being the second. For instance, painkillers rates: 18-25 years old rate was 11.8%, 7.5% for 12-17 years old and 3.1% for >26 years old. Dependence onto drug use is likely to occur to those who started abusing drugs before age 16. Alcohol across the life span is associated with smaller hippocampus that is memory damage, cerebellum damage whose key function is coordination and frontal cortex damage leading to the cognitive deficit (McCance-Katz, 1-13).

Precipitating factors to drug use among adolescent
Young people are highly vulnerable to any form of drug abuse exposure. This is because; during this time the brain is still developing. During adolescent the brain still undergoes maturation. This form of neurodevelopment may trigger the adolescent to novelty-seeking and risk-taking. Today many teenage live indoors, less active and depend on their parents for financial support. Hence, although risk-taking behavior for years was linked with the value of survival is likely to increase the probability of teenagers to indulge in substance abuse and problems that comes with substance abuse (Winters & Arrira, 21-24).
Pharmacokinetic consequences /dynamic age changes among the elderly
Pharmacodynamics like post-receptor events, receptor-membrane interactions, and drug-receptor interactions are likely to change as someone ages. For instance, GABAa-benzodiazepines receptor complex is likely to show an increase in sensitivity with benzodiazepines among the older population and increased short-term memory loss, immobility, ataxia, confusion, sedation and other forms of cognitive disturbance. Also, a reduced homeostatic mechanism is likely to increase the period that the older person requires in attaining steady-state levels after drug therapy. Therefore, these, dynamic/pharmacokinetic changes can place drug abusers within the old population at high risk for potentially drug-disease and drug-drug interactions (Dowling, Weiss & Condon, 209-218).

Drug abuse raises public health concern as many adolescents fall victims. The burden is much felt among the adolescent than the old population. This fact has seen various researches being carried out to understand adolescent changing behaviors and drug abuse through various epidemiological studies. Drug abuse has shown to alter the brain volume, decrease cognitive function and increase the possibility of morbidity and mortality with continuation use of various drugs. Among the elderly, the research has not gotten much involvement; however, various studies show that the drug abuse is associated with increased effects of cognitive declination and memory loss. Nevertheless, drugs such marijuana and cigarette smoking have been pointed to contain positive chemical elements that can improve the health of various individuals. Despite this, these drugs hold more side effects to the brain and the general body health compared to the foreseen benefits and, therefore, should be controlled.

Works Cited
Dowling, G.J., Weiss, S.R.B. and Condon, T.P. “Drugs of abuse and the aging brain”. Neuropsychopharmacology, 33 (2008): 209-218. Print.
EDELSON E. Drugs and the Brain. Effects of Drugs on The Brain. New York, Chelsea House Publishers 1987.Print.
McCance-Katz, E. Effect of Drugs and Alcohol on the Adolescent Brain, (n.d.). Web. Accessed, http://sfc.virginia.gov/pdf/health/McCance-Katz%20-%20VCU%20-%20Effect%20of%20Drugs%20and%20Alcohol%20on%20the%20Adolescent.pdf , 12/9/2015.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Drugs, Brains and Behavior: The Science of Addiction, pp3-29. 2010. Print.
Nora D. et al. “Adverse health effects of marijuana use”. N Eng J Med, 370 (2014): 2219-2227
Winters, K.C. & Arrira A. “Adolescent brain development and drugs”. Prev Res, 18.2 (2011):21-24. Print.