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Drugs & Health Blog

Be Aware for Your Brain: Drugs Change Critical Parts

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.

Lydia V. Kibiuk, Society for Neuroscience, Brain Facts

Sara Bellum

There’s no better time than the upcoming Brain Awareness Week, from March 11‒17, to learn more about the most fascinating organ in your body.

The pictures at the right (from the Society for Neuroscience, a partner of the Dana Foundation for Brain Awareness Week) show some of the most critical parts of your brain.

Here’s what each part is primarily responsible for—and guess what? As the pictures show, these are also the brain regions most affected by drugs of abuse:

Prefrontal cortex: This part is often referred to as the “CEO of the brain.” The prefrontal cortex is responsible for critical thinking and abstract thought, as well as many other functions like focusing attention, organizing thoughts, controlling impulses, and forming strategies for future action. The prefrontal cortex is one of the last regions of the brain to mature, so changes caused by drug abuse could have long-lasting effects.

Nucleus accumbens: Part of the so-called “pleasure center,” the nucleus accumbens is thought to play an important role in reward, pleasure, laughter, aggression, and fear.

Amygdala: Research shows that the amygdala has a major role in processing memory and emotional reactions, such as fear. The amygdala is part of the limbic system.

Hippocampus: Also part of the limbic system, the hippocampus plays important roles in moving information from short-term memory to long-term memory.

Ventral tegmental area: This structure is important in thinking, motivation, and intense emotions relating to love.

Scientists are constantly studying the brain and learning more and more about how different brain structures relate to addiction. We know drugs change the brain, but the effects of these changes are not yet fully understood.

Protect your brain. Make the healthy choice to stay away from drugs and alcohol.

What questions do you have about the brain? Let us know in comments. And Happy Brain Awareness Week!

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


Wooow very good information, we must to be careful with our brain we aren´t so smart.... go to college
I have read all of your information on this website about cannibis "marijuana" and I have come to the conclusion that you all have no idea what you are talking about if anyone needs correct information on this plant they should visit [link removed, per guidelines]. I in no way promote the use of drugs but I do believe that everyone has the right to the truth and correct information about everything and most of what you have here is false
thats sad
Just because you choose to ignore information doesn't mean it is false. People always defend their drug of addiction.l hope you get help for your problem.
Actually, this guy is right. All the data I see sponsored by NIDA focuses on the negative side. They have yet to acknowledge several high profile studies that totally contradict assertions by NIDA. For example, recall the 2005 Xia Zhang study that found that cannabinoids promote neuronal growth in the hippocampus.... Kind of contradicts the view that cannabis damages the hippocampus. What about the arsenal of Tashkins studies that failed to find a correlation between cannabis smoke and lung cancer? The in vivo AND in vitro studies that found phytocannabinoids to be neuroprotective agents? Read between the lines. Science is not about proving anything, it's a process of construction/deconstruction of assertions... And just now we are beginning to deconstruct the notion that cannabis is inherently neurotoxic.
Thank you for the information.. [link removed, per guidelines]
Thanks for providing this [commercial link removed, per guidelines]
people addicted to cannabis keep trying to make it legal, going to take down others with them. wise up and listen to the science!
that is so true!!!
what actually happens to the brain when on drugs all it says is the drugs effect a certian part of the brain WHAT part what effect can i get these answers please

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