Effects of drugs on the nervous system


In this article, we will discuss the different effects of drugs on the nervous system and the possible consequences they can generate in the short and long term.

Table of contents

The reasons why people decide to consume a substance can be very diverse, however, among all of them, the desire to achieve an immediate effect that induces them to certain effects produced by the alterations caused by the substance in our nervous system is similar.

However, the immediacy of its effects that are sought in its consumption can become permanent consequences that can accompany us throughout our lives.

What are the drugs that affect the nervous system? What effects do drugs have on the brain? It is very important to know the different effects of drugs on the nervous system and the possible consequences that they can generate in the short and long term.

Research Shows That High Doses Of Cocaine Can Cause The Brain To Literally Eat Itself!
Research Shows That High Doses Of Cocaine Can Cause The Brain To Literally Eat Itself!

Effects of drugs on the nervous system

What are drugs?

In order for a substance to be considered a drug, it must be a substance that, administered by any route of administration, can modify one or more functions of our central nervous system (pleasure, pain attenuation, disinhibition, stimulation, perceptual alteration, or overcoming pain, physical or intellectual performance, etc.) and can produce a state of physical and/or psychological dependence and tolerance, where the effects are less and less.

Drug effects

What effect do drugs have on the nervous system? Drugs alter brain function by modifying the production, release, or degradation of brain neurotransmitters in such a way that there is a change in the natural process of neuronal intercommunication.

The modification of neurotransmitters, produced in excess, produces changes in our brain as a consequence of the chemical imbalance produced.

However, we must bear in mind that the different effects of drugs on the central nervous system will be different depending on the drug consumed.

Let's see what the differences are between the different groups of substances according to the WHO drug classification.

Depressant drugs

What are depressant drugs?

Central nervous system depressant drugs have the function of depressing and slowing down our central nervous system, first depressing its higher functions of the CNS and later of the autonomic nervous system, causing a general and progressive numbness of our brain.

Effects of depressant drugs

  • Relaxation
  • Inner peace
  • Welfare
  • Sedation
  • Apathy
  • decrease in tension
  • Tranquillity
  • Harmony with a mismo

Types of depressant drugs

Within the depressant drugs we can find three large families, which will produce different effects on the functioning of our nervous system:

  1. Opium and its derivatives (codeine, heroin, methadone, etc.): generally produce a state of relaxation, indifference, tranquility, inability to concentrate, and euphoria.
  2. Alcohol and its derivatives: at low doses, it produces an apparent stimulating, disinhibiting and euphoric capacity. However, its depressant effect increases with the dose and can cause sleep, coma, and cardiorespiratory arrest. In this article, you will find the effects of alcohol on the brain.
  3. Hypnotics and sedatives: produce a state of relaxation and drowsiness or sleep in our nervous system.

Stimulant drugs

Central nervous system-stimulating drugs speed up normal brain function, thereby causing a state of activation. This cerebral acceleration produces consequences on the functioning of the nervous system.

Effects of stimulant drugs

  • Euphoria
  • disinhibition
  • poor emotional control
  • Irritability
  • Aggressiveness
  • Decreased fatigue
  • Decreased sleep
  • motor arousal
  • Concern

Types of stimulant drugs

Within the stimulant drugs we can find three large families, which will produce different effects on the functioning of our nervous system:

  1. Coca and cocaine: inhibits feelings of fatigue, sleep, and hunger, facilitates feelings of vigor, lucidity, and omnipotence.
  2. Amphetamines: are synthetic substances, related to adrenaline and ephedrine. They produce a feeling of alertness, energy, euphoria, increased activity and communication, loss of appetite, and sleep.
  3. Tobacco and its active ingredient, nicotine: the subjective effects sought by the consumer are a combination of exciting and depressant effects.

Hallucinogenic or disturbing drugs

What are hallucinogen drugs?

Hallucinogenic drugs produce important effects on the nervous system, recognized above all for their involvement in the distortion produced on perception and sensations.

Effects of hallucinogenic drugs

  • altered state of consciousness
  • thought disturbance
  • mood disturbance
  • Distortion of perception and sensations

Types of hallucinogenic drugs

Within psychedelic drugs we can find two large families, which will produce different effects on the functioning of our nervous system:

  1. Cannabis: produces alterations in perception with euphoria, disinhibition, decreased memory, attention span, a certain degree of confusion and drowsiness, hilarity, and relaxation.
  2. Hallucinogens: This substance produces an interruption between the interaction of our nerve cells and the neurotransmitter serotonin, thereby producing alterations in perception, which can lead to hallucinations and/or delusions, behavior, mood, decreased appetite, and changes in body temperature, and sexual behavior, hyperactivity, and mental confusion.

Consequences of addictions

The consequences generated by the temporary and prolonged consumption of these substances can be very diverse and can reach high levels of severity.

The effects of occasional consumption are different than the consequences of being addicted. 

The consequences of addictions include both the physical consequences of drug use and the psychological and social effects of drugs. Each group of substances and each specific substance could cause numerous differentiated consequences between them, however, we are going to point out the consequences of the most frequent and common addictions:

1. Cardiovascular damage

Some of the drug families, such as cocaine, can cause damage at the cardiovascular level.

Its acute consumption produces a significant increase in blood pressure and heart rate that can be accompanied by an increase in body temperature.

These cardiovascular alterations are responsible for the main acute complications that can occur, among which cerebral hemorrhage and myocardial infarction stand out due to their seriousness.

These complications can cause permanent sequelae of particular importance when those affected are young.

2. Alterations of the nervous system

Drugs can produce serious short-term and long-term alterations in the system that are manifested in the neurological and psychiatric spheres.

In this sense, chronic users frequently present impaired memory and ability to concentrate, irritability, increased anxiety, and loss of motivation.

At the psychiatric level, the incidence of psychotic disorders and in particular paranoid symptoms is also high.

3. Tolerance over reward circuitry

Drugs produce hyperactivity in the reward circuits of our body, causing sensations of, for example, euphoria, increased motivation, increased sexual activity, and increased social interactions,...

However, when the person adapts to the substance, his Sensitivity to these actions decreases, causing difficulties in being able to feel pleasure at all without the consumption of the substance, which is why great difficulties have been observed in the sexual sphere, for example, due to sexual dysfunctions such as erectile dysfunction, impotence or anorgasmia.

4. Altered mood

Mood disturbances are very common in substance use. Mood changes can occur either in the face of substance use or as a result of its withdrawal.

However, on many occasions, the prolonged use of these substances can cause a permanent change in the personality of the person, which is not related to the consumption or the lack of it.

5. Increased discomfort

Withdrawal from the substance to which the person is addicted produces feelings of irritability, anxiety, stress, and/or restlessness and therefore the person consumes again.

Over time and with the increase in its consumption, this circuit is increasingly shorter, causing the person to always feel this discomfort and its consumption is no longer to achieve a state of relaxation or euphoria since it consumes to alleviate this discomfort.

6. Affectation in all areas

One of the frequent consequences of drug addiction is having problems in other areas. In addition to eliminating (or reducing) substance use, additional issues must be addressed.

Due to the fact that before the consumption of substances it is normal for problems to appear in the labor, legal, family, social, and/or economic areas.

It is very frequent that the consumption of substances leads the person to have family problems, causing a distance from the family nucleus. It also happens in social relationships or at work, because, for example, in the face of a consumer's lack of interest or decreased performance, they may lose their job or become isolated.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative, I have no authority to make a diagnosis or recommend treatment. I invite you to visit a psychologist to treat your particular case.