Can Long-Term Drug Use Physically Alter Your Brain?

 There are individuals from many walks of life who get themselves into trouble with drugs. These people might start using a substance and think it’s harmless experimentation. They may get to the point where they’re using their drug of choice regularly, though. Their use of this drug, or multiple drugs, may last for years.

Tricare addiction rehab facilities are always an option if you find yourself in the grip of drug abuse or addiction. You might also be wondering whether long-term drug use can physically alter your brain, though. It’s a subject worth considering, so let’s talk about it right now. 

What is the Definition of Long-Term Drug Use?

drugs-addictionIf we’re saying “long term” when speaking about someone’s drug use, there’s no clinical definition for how long we mean. You could say “long term” and be talking about someone who has been in a downward spiral with drugs for a few weeks.

Usually, though, when you hear someone mention long-term drug use, they probably mean an individual who has been using a particular drug, or multiple drugs, for months or years. You might even have situations where someone has been using a harmful substance for decades if there has been no one to intervene on their behalf and they haven’t had the impetus to stop on their own.

Is There Evidence That Long-Term Drug Use Impacts Your Brain?

The short answer is that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that long-term drug use can physically alter someone’s brain. Doctors and scientists have concluded this by studying the brains of long-time drug users.

Long-lasting brain damage can certainly make it difficult for an addict to stay clean if they want to make some positive changes in their life. However, with that being said, there is also evidence to suggest that changes to neuron connections in the brain can repair themselves in many instances. The best chance of this happening is if the addict stops using their chosen drug and takes some time to let their brain heal.

Stopping at Any Point Can Help You

An addict who has been using a certain drug for a long time will want their drug of choice more and more. That is because the brain’s reward or pleasure circuits have essentially been hijacked and rewired. There’s a reward or pleasure payoff when the chosen drug makes its way into the addict’s system, and resisting the temptation can be supremely difficult.

However, an addict who can get themselves into treatment or find some other way to resist the urge gives their brain a chance to recover. That process is likely to take longer if the person has been using this particular drug for years or even decades. That doesn’t mean their cognitive function can’t improve in time, though. Their brain may never get back to what it originally was if they have been indulging in a harmful drug for most of their lives, but getting clean is always worthwhile and is never a lost cause.

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Last Updated on March 14, 2024 by Marie Benz MD FAAD