Drug use in young adults has grown exponentially in recent years. While substance abuse continues to rise, drug use in those who classify themselves as occasional users of stimulants, such as cocaine, and certain prescription drugs, has proven to produce effects on the brain that may lead to deepening addiction later in life.
The study published in the March 26 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, compared the reaction times of occasional stimulant users to those who had never tried these drugs. Early in the study, reaction times of those who had experimented with stimulants was faster which suggested to researchers a tendency towards impulsive behavior. As the testing continued, those classified as occasional users made more errors and their performance worsened compared to others. Further examination of brain activity through brain imaging revealed diminishing activity in parts of the brain associated with anticipation and other forms of functioning.
The findings of this study require examination into if the effects of occasional use can be reversed. Researchers suggest that these parts of the brain may be trained through “exercise” to diminish tendencies towards addiction.
Stimulants are highly addictive substances that tend to have higher rates of relapse compared to other substances. These types of drugs can rewire the brain, causing it to crave more even in early stages of use. While there are a variety of treatments available for stimulant drug abuse, early intervention is critical in combating the long-term effects it can have on the brain.
Treating stimulant drug addiction can take many forms and often utilizing a wide variety of methods proves most successful. Rerouting thoughts and actions that led to substance abuse through individual and group therapies are incredibly useful as well as uncovering the root causes of drug abuse, whether it be due to environmental factors, peer pressure or co-occurring disorders. Individualizing treatment to address the needs of each individual ensures the best outcomes in treatment.