Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Drugs + Your Brain: A Threat to Mission Control

Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Drugs + Your Brain: A Threat to Mission Control

Article excerpt

Meet your brain. It's who you are. It's what allows you to think, breathe, move, speak, and feel. It's just three pounds of gray-and-white matter that rests in your skull, and it is your own personal "mission control." Your brain sends and receives chemical and electrical signals as part of a carefully calibrated communication system called the central nervous system, which controls your body's functions. Abusing drugs directly affects how your brain functions. This can lead to serious physical and emotional health problems.

Not all drugs of abuse are the same, but they all affect the brain and can lead to serious consequences.

Memory Meltdown

Abuse of marijuana can make it hard to remember what you just said or did, and impossible to perform complicated tasks, since it affects the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus-brain areas responsible for thinking and memory.

Out of Control

Marijuana and alcohol can affect a person's coordination and impair athletic and driving ability because of the effects on brain areas such as the cerebellum.

Addiction

Abusing drugs can lead to addiction--an inability to stop using even when a person wants to and despite harmful consequences to his or her health and life (such as problems in school, at home, or at work). Drugs act on the limbic system, which includes the pleasure center of the brain. Drugs make people feel good, which is why some people keep taking them over and over again. But over time, drugs change the brain's wiring and function. …

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