The Effects of Drugs and Alcohol on Neurotransmitters in the Brain
The damage drug and alcohol use inflicts on the brain’s neurotransmitters can cause continuing deterioration, altering the neurotransmitters, causing temporary or permanent damage. But which neurotransmitters are involved in addiction, and why is it important to understand the relationship?
When consumed over an extended period, drugs and alcohol can decrease the brain’s ability to produce ‘feel good’ chemicals naturally. Short-term exposure to alcohol releases γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a primary ‘restraint’ neurotransmitter in the brain. When this is released, sedative-like effects occur. When alcohol is combined with other substances such as drugs, the results become exacerbated.
What Are Neurotransmitters?
Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that relay information from cell to cell, sending data to the brain about what the body is going through and experiencing. More than 100 neurotransmitters throughout the body can be broken down into a select few types. You may be wondering which neurotransmitters are involved in addiction. Some of these include:
- Trace Amines
- Amino Acids
Neurotransmitters play a vital role in an individual’s overall health, especially when it comes to emotional health. Since many neurotransmitters have either a stimulant or sedative effect, they are responsible for serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine levels in the brain, regulating emotions such as pleasure, happiness, and excitement.
The Role of Neurotransmitters in Alcohol and Drug Addiction
The dopamine system has proven to play a pivotal role in the satisfying effects that alcohol induces. Alcohol affects the function of neurotransmitters in that it interacts with a number of the different neurotransmitter systems within the brain that are responsible for reward. Over time and consistent exposure to alcohol, how these neurotransmitters interact with neuronal function can eventually lead to alcoholism.
Which Neurotransmitters Are Affected?
Each individual and their addiction is unique, and the same neurotransmitters may not be affected in each person. The primary neurotransmitters are serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine, and glutamate, among others. Each of these neurotransmitters has a unique role and conveys particular messages to the brain. For example, dopamine regulates feelings of happiness, reward, and motivation. If this neurotransmitter is damaged, the individual will have difficulty feeling pleasure or reward without the crutch of drugs or alcohol.
Certain drugs affect neurotransmitters that can lessen alertness and can slow down breathing, such as heroin. In contrast, other drugs attach to the brain receptors that are responsible for dopamine regulation and feelings of euphoria, such as cocaine.
Dangers of Disrupting Neurotransmitters
When neurotransmitters are disrupted through drug and alcohol abuse, it can put the individual in danger. When an individual abuses drugs or alcohol, they are disrupting the natural neurotransmitter response. Due to the impairment that occurs during drug and alcohol abuse, those whose neurotransmitters are damaged cannot make sound decisions putting their well-being in danger.
Alcohol and Drug Rehab Treatment at WhiteSands
To help patients protect which neurotransmitters are involved in addiction, WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab offers alcohol and drug rehab to those who are struggling. With proven treatment modalities with a track record of success, WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab is confident that patients can reach sustained and lasting sobriety.
If you or someone you love is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, they must find immediate help as addiction is a disease that will not dissipate independently. Please contact our medical staff or visit any of our Florida facilities to learn how proper addiction treatment can help you or someone you love turn their life around and find the sobriety and happiness they’ve been searching for.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.