Substance Use

How Addiction Affects the Body

How does addiction affect the body?

Repeated drug and alcohol use causes chemical dependency, or lasting changes to the way the brain functions and operates. In fact, all abused substances alter the areas of the brain responsible for self-control, judgment, emotional regulation, motivation, memory and learning by hijacking the brain’s normal reward pathways.

Although abused substances—including alcohol, heroin, benzodiazepines, methamphetamine, nicotine and prescription drugs—act on different pathways in the brain, they all necessitate increasingly higher doses to produce a high or simply allow the user to feel normal. Issues such as mental illness, multiple addictions and ancillary health problems may complicate substance addiction.


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