Whether it is with a controversial movie like Requiem for a Dream or a Netflix success like Orange Is the New Black, entertainment has brought substance abuse right into our living rooms and our smartphones. Characters from all backgrounds are consumed by their addictions until they become unrecognizable. We see the tremendously negative effect that drugs and alcohol can have on people, but have we ever stopped and wondered why?
Substance Abuse and the Brain
The reason is simple: drugs and alcohol destroy the brain. They flood the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. This causes the person using drugs or alcohol to feel moments of extreme happiness, but once that feeling goes away, they are left with nothing but cravings. As the desire for the substance continues to increase, the individual needs to consume more and more of it to feel its euphoric effects. This rapidly turns into a vicious cycle in which the individual is constantly using, yet never able to achieve their original high.
Over time, drug and alcohol abuse alter critical brain activity and trick the brain into prioritizing the substance over everything else. Because the brain is consumed by drugs or alcohol, an individual’s personality drastically changes. Often, those suffering from a substance abuse problem morph into completely different people altogether.
Ways Drugs and Alcohol Can Change Personality and Behavior Include:
Erratic behavior and negative changes in personality can have devastating effects on an individual’s overall well-being. Some of the damage it can cause includes:
To hide their addiction, individuals often become very secretive, isolate themselves, or lie to loved ones. Frequent mood swings and anger management issues often cause issues in the home and cause relationships to deteriorate.
Poor School/Work Performance
Two of the most common changes seen in those with a substance abuse problem are loss of interest and inability to focus. Students who turn to drugs or alcohol are more likely to drop out of school entirely. Drugs can impact not only their academic or professional performance, but also how they are perceived by others in the workplace, as one-fifth of emplooyees report that they felt distracted or unsafe as a result of their coworkers’ addiction.
Changes in personality can also affect physical health. Their drug of choice often becomes the central focus of an addicted person’s life, preventing them from accomplishing even the most basic tasks, such as eating regularly or getting sleep. Adding these stressors to an already weakened immune system can dismantle the individual’s health.
Drugs and alcohol often cause the addicted person to act erratically and take unnecessary risks. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, alcohol is a factor in 40 percent of all violent crimes today, and drugs and crime are directly and highly correlated.
What to do if you recognize these changes in your loved one:
Realizing that your loved one is struggling with addiction is scary and overwhelming but know that you are not alone. During this difficult time, it’s important that you surround yourself with support ⎼ groups such as Nan-Anon can be a great resource for families whose loved ones are struggling. Educating yourself on addiction, what you can and cannot do to help your loved one, how you can encourage them to seek treatment, and what to look for in a treatment center is also important. Talking to your loved one about their addiction won’t be easy, but it is a necessary conversation that could save their life.
What to do if you recognize these changes in yourself:
Recognizing that you are struggling with drugs or alcohol is the first step to a healthier future. Know that while overcoming addiction is not easy, it is possible. Talk to your loved ones about your substance abuse and let them know how they can support you during this time. It is normal for you to have questions about addiction and wonder if you need treatment or if you can do it on your own. Do your research, learn what your treatment options are, and most importantly, don’t give up. We're here to help. If you or a loved one is struggling, call 888 510 8852. Our team of addiction experts is ready to help you reclaim your life.