Drug use causes a large number of deaths throughout the year and around the world.In 2017, the UN produced a general report on this consumption. It shows that, for the previous year alone, the number of deaths caused by drug use increased by 11.4%.
The pleasure effects produced in the brain cause the person to become addicted.Prolonged consumption can even lead to neuronal damage that affects motivation, emotions, cognition and executive control.All of this can sometimes result in the appearance of a mental disorder.
But what is mental disorder? If we allow ourselves to be guided by the DSM-5 clinical definition, we understand a mental disorder as a syndrome characterized by a clinically significant alteration of the cognitive state, emotional regulation or behavior of an individual, which reflects dysfunctional biological processes or development that underlie mental function.
Drugs and their relation to dopamine
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter released by the brain. Among all its functions, the one that matters most to us at this moment isreward of pleasure.That is, when we do something we like, dopamine is released and creates a feeling of well-being. In this way, our body tends to seek once again these "generating good sensations" activities to feel this sensation of fullness again.
Both food and sex are actions that release dopamine. But the drugs too.They will all release large amounts of dopamines in very specific areas, such asnucleus accumbens.The latter will play an important role in the brain reward system and in the integration of motivation and action. This zone maintains high connections with the limbic system and the hippocampus.
How do drugs work in the brain?
Neurons are the cells of the nervous system responsible for receiving, transforming, managing and storing information. Between one neuron and another, there is a space calledsynaptic space.This space is very important because the neurotransmitters are free there and allow the chemical communication between the neurons. Dopamine will be released and end up in this synaptic space.
That implies that,when you consume any substance that could create an addiction,dopamine levels will increase in the synaptic space. Thus, drugs can increase dopamine release in this space but may also partially block recapture; the result is therefore strictly the same. This increase in dopamine levels in the synaptic space will generate effects of pleasure and euphoria.
Basically, drugs cause physiologically the same effect as any natural action, such as an accomplice discussion with a good friend. The problem is thatthe intensity of their effect is much greater: the rest of the natural actions eventually no longer sufficeafter feeling the sensations caused by a drug. Hence their immense appeal.
Some theories about dopamine and drugs
Some of the assumptions that have come up – even if there are still few studies to validate them – saythat a deficit in dopamine levels– whether in a natural way or because of a lack of sources that produce pleasure or a sensation of well-being-we would be predisposed to using drugs.
In this way, by failing to release enough dopamine, the person could abuse these dopamine-releasing activities to feel the same pleasure effects. Nevertheless, we can not forget that, even though a great deal of research is emerging, it is a theory that still needs empirical evidence to consolidate it.
As we had already said at the beginning of the article, drug use can be the trigger for a mental disorder. Whether punctual or permanent.
The DSM-V accepts intoxication with substances and abstinence as disorders in themselves.However, there are other types of mental disorders produced by this type of substance. Some have a greater impact than others or appear at specific times. The most characteristic are: psychotic, bipolar, depressive or anxiety disorders. They all occur at the time of intoxication (immediate effects of the drug) but also at the time of abstinence. Sometimes, some drugs can even produce schizophrenia spectra.
Thus, psychotic disorders are characterized by an alteration of the cognitive functions of the brain,can even cause a loss of intellectual abilities. These abnormalities in cognitive components will be of different types.
Alteration at the level of perception
These are alterations that will affect the senses.
- Hallucinations:we see an object that does not really exist (for example, a spaceship).
- Illusions:the object exists in reality but is deformed (for example, it is thought that a determined and real person is the disguised devil).
- Formations:also called Ekbom syndrome. We imagine that animals, like ants, invade our body. The anxiety caused causes the person to take drastic decisions such as removing them at all costs (for example, using a knife, a chisel, etc.).
We can divide it into two types:
- In the course:loss of attention and associative capacity. The person who has this dysfunction as a symptom is characterized by an inability to delimit the stimuli she receives. That is to say, when we speak with a person, we pick up various stimuli: other voices, a passing car, the lighting of shops …People without this condition are able to stick to only the information they want to convey.Now, a person with this alteration will not only convey what she wants to say: she will introduce in her speech the lighting of the shops, the passing car and the voices of other passers-by.
- In the content:delusional ideas.These people will think of things that are not real by giving them precisely a reality.This thought is in a possible realm of reality (in other words, what one thinks could actually happen, the person may be convinced that his spouse is cheating on her and it is true that this person is in a relationship and that his / her companion has friends, even if he / she does not deceive her in reality) but one then suffers from a disorganization of the contents. It becomes totally illogical (for example, people chase me, jealousy, etc.).
Drugs produce harmful effects at different levels or levels of the person and that is why their effects are so devastating. They do not only seriously damage the physical state of the body: as we have seen, they can also cause serious disorders or mental limitations.The treatment for these people must be done individually, according to the specific pathology they suffer and taking into account the social, environmental and psychobiological circumstances that led them to consume and maintain this consumption.