Nootropics: A Dangerous New Addiction

Alcohol and addictive substances, such as heroin, methamphetamines, and cocaine, have long been a problem here in the United States. A new class of drug, termed: nootropics is adding to those problems. Today, it is estimated that nearly 21 million Americans struggle with a substance abuse problem of some kind. A person struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs was once considered to lack moral fortitude, but now, with a deeper understanding of addiction, doctors and scientists alike now profile addiction as a disease of the brain. Addiction literally causes changes to the functioning of an addicts brain, and sometimes these changes are even permanent.

An addiction to drugs or alcohol means when a person is unable to stop using these mind altering substances even though they usually have experienced some extreme, and often negative, consequences because of their substance abuse problem. This could be anything like going to jail, losing a job, spending all their time and money drinking alcohol or using drugs, not seeing their family, living on the streets, etc. The problem with addiction is that oftentimes it is really hard to stop abusing these substances without the help of a professional or some other type of interference, such as an overdose or a rock bottom experience.

While the use of alcohol and illegal illicit drugs, like marijuana or crack cocaine, have all been around for some time now, there is now a newer category of drugs that have been slowly sweeping across the nation. Unfortunately, not all commonly abused substances are illegal. Like alcohol, things like prescription drugs and over the counter medications are also commonly abused by members of the population. This new class of drugs are referred to as “nootropics”, which can literally be translated from the Greek words meaning mind and bending.

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"Smart drugs" or "cognitive enhancers" are substances that people take to improve an area of brain function.

Nootropics can be illegal substances, prescription drugs, and even over the counter medications. Nootropics are drugs used to improve cognitive brain functions, such as:

The first nootropic was discovered by Romanian scientist Corneliu Giurgea in the 1960s. Named Piracetam, the drug was first intended to lull patients into a gentle slumber, but they quickly realized it had the opposite effects. Patients also reported that it let to substantial improvement to their memories. While the drug is not approved by the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration), it is a prescription drug available in the UK and it is still widely used by students and young professionals alike, despite there being any scientific evidence to support their claims of cognitive improvement.

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According to a study that was recently conducted, there is evidence to suggest that nearly 30% of people living in the United States have used a nootropic at least once in the past year. If you have ever seen the movie “Limitless”, a movie that was produced in 2011 where the main character was introduced to a nootropic drug called NZT-48, then you may be familiar with the phenomena of this newly spreading craze. During the movie, NZT-48 allows him to access and fully utilize all areas of his brain, leading to substantial improvement in his life and career, but by the end of the movie it is clear that the drug also has very harmful side-effects, including dependence and addiction.

Nootropics can be very addictive.

It is true that not all nootropic drugs are considered to be dangerous, but there are still those who have very serious side effects. Part of what makes these drugs so compelling is that they are usually medically prescribed or available for purchase over the counter, so people associate them with having less risk. Another component that increases the danger level of these drugs is what is known as increased tolerance, sometimes the user needs more and more to achieve the desired effect, this can cause them to use more of the same drug, or turn to other more harmful drugs instead. Some of the most dangerous and addictive nootropic drugs are listed as follows;

It is important to note that none of these drugs have ever been shown to increase cognitive abilities, and they have had the most positive impact on someone who already had cognitive impairment problems to begin with.

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However, as I mentioned earlier there are some natural substances known to have nootropic effects with little to no side effects. So, if you must, and you are feeling like you may need a little cognitive enhancement, try drinking the age old cup of coffee for that natural boost. Caffeine has been shown to have a positive effect with a low risk of dependence. Other over the counter substances like L-theanine or ginkgo biloba have also had positive effects reported by users, and they also carry a low risk of dependency. As always, speak with a medical professional before trying any of these safer alternatives as they may react with other medications. As always, if you believe that you or a loved one have developed a dependence on any type of substance, do not worry! We are here to help, do not hesitate to ask!

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The Best Drug Ever Created?

It is no secret that our country is currently suffering from a widespread problem, that problem is better known as addiction. Current research suggests that more than 21  million Americans struggle with an active addiction to drugs or alcohol every single day. While there are a large number of illegal drugs currently being abused, the most addictive and commonly abused are listed as followed; alcohol, methamphetamine, heroin, opioids, cocaine, crack cocaine, and marijuana. You may ask yourself, what makes these drugs so dangerously addictive to those who decide to use them? Well, the answer to that question would be Dopamine, the best drug ever created.What exactly is Dopamine, then?

Dopamine is a chemical neurotransmitter that is naturally released inside the brain.

While Dopamine is often associated with drug and alcohol abuse, it doesn’t just stop there; it is linked to shopping addictions, gambling addictions, sex addictions, so on and so forth. Dopamine is meant to act as a positive reinforcement for things normally dependent on survival, such as the rewarding feeling you get after eating a delicious meal or the pleasure you feel after sex.

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Dopamine is often referred to as the “pleasure center” or “reward center” of the brain. Our brains are literally wired to increase the odds that we will repeat a pleasurable experience. When someone engages in a rewarding activity, the burst of dopamine is meant to signal to the individual that something important is happening and that it should take place again. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this signal of dopamine causes changes in the neural connectivity of the brain making it easier to repeat these same actions over and over again without ever having to really think about it. This is what eventually leads to the formation of habits.

Drugs produce an overwhelming sense of euphoria and an intense burst of dopamine.

This powerfully reinforces the connection between using the drug, the resulting pleasure, and everything else that becomes associated with the experience like people, places, or things. In essence, this large surge of dopamine teaches the brain to seek and use drugs, even at the expense of other healthier goals or activities.

With the continued use, and the increased surges of dopamine, the external stimuli that get associated with a person's drug abuse are ultimately what become their triggers later on, and they are often very hard to overcome. This can result in a person having uncontrollable cravings when they encounter things that remind them of using their drug of choice, sometimes lasting even years into sobriety.

What many people do not know is that addiction is a disease of the brain. It is characterized by the inability to stop using drugs or alcohol despite having suffered extreme, severe, and negative consequences, like overdosing, losing their family, or ending up homeless. It is a chronic and often relapsing condition in which the only treatment or cure is to abstain completely from drugs or alcohol.

Drugs interfere with the way neurons send, receive and process information, causing physical differences in the actual structure of an addicted person’s brain. The three main areas that are most heavily affected by drug usage are the basal ganglia, the extended amygdala, and the prefrontal cortex.

The basal ganglia plays an important role in positive forms of motivation, including the pleasurable effects of healthy activities, otherwise known as the reward center. By overstimulating this circuit with a flood of dopamine, it diminishes the sensitivity and makes it hard to feel pleasure again without the use of drugs or alcohol.

The extended amygdala plays an essential role in stressful feelings, especially ones associated with withdrawal. Overtime, the increase of dopamine causes this area of the brain to become more sensitive, which is why it is difficult for those who are addicted to deal with stressful emotions without the use of drugs or alcohol.

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for the ability to think, plan, solve problems, make decisions, and exert control over one’s impulses. Overwhelming the brain’s circuit with the repeated influx of dopamine causes an individual with a substance use disorder to suffer from a lack of impulse control and diminished decision making skills.

Some of these changes to the brain can heal over time, but depending on how extreme the usage of drugs or alcohol was, and for how long they were being abused, some of these changes can be permanent. When someone suddenly stops using drugs or alcohol, the brain goes on high alert because it has been tricked into believing that it needs drugs or alcohol in order to feel good again or to even feel normal.

Some common symptoms of excessive dopamine and drug withdrawal include:

For this, the list could go on. If you believe you or someone you know may be suffering from a severe drug withdrawal, it is always recommended that you contact a medical health professional. There is no telling how your body will react when detoxing from a dangerous and addictive substance.

The research surrounding the problem of addiction is continually offering new insight in how to better deal and treat this life-long disease that affects so many people in our country alone. For so long, addiction was seen as the person lacking moral fiber, but now we know that it is a disease that chemically alters the structure of the brain. especially over time. Thankfully, scientists and doctors have been able to identify the link between addiction and dopamine. Hopefully, now that we may all have a better understanding about the role it plays in developing an addiction, we will be able to better manage it when it occurs, or stop it from happening entirely. If you need help and believe you are suffering from an addiction yourself, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for help! We have a team of professionals who are more than happy to help you begin your journey to healthy and happy life.

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Drug Usage Can Be Driven By Childhood Trauma

A common question in today’s world is what drives abuse of drugs and alcohol? While the answer to that isn’t exactly a 'one fits all' model, there are many things that can potentially lead to whether or not someone will become an addicted person later on in life. This can include things like genetic predisposition, how old a person is the first time they try drugs or alcohol, peer pressure, their success in school, how stable their home environment is and influence of family members. Of course, this is not an all-inclusive list of what eventually leads an addict to develop an addiction. Research suggests that childhood trauma can also have a significant impact on the likelihood of someone developing an addiction.

Addiction has become an overwhelming epidemic in our society as accessibility and acceptability have increased drug usage across the country. Today, in the United States alone, more than 23.5 million people are afflicted with this disease that changes the brain of the user over time. Often times surrounding it is the stigma or idea that addicts are somehow less capable, weak minded or criminalistic. The doctors and researchers who focus on this subject have found that that is just completely not true.

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Sadly, statistics show that one in every six boys and one in every four girls will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday. The non-profit organization RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) reports that every 8 minutes government officials respond to a report of child sexual abuse. Additionally, the National Institute of Health (NIH) states that one third of children with a report of child abuse or neglect will have a substance abuse problem by their 18th birthday. Furthermore, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), nearly 55 to 60 percent of people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also have a substance abuse disorder of some kind.

What is Trauma?

The term trauma can be defined as an adverse and often malignant reaction to a singular or repetitive event that caused severe physical or psychological harm. It is characterized by a patient's inability to move past and process the experience without reliving it over and over again. Any type of dramatic event early on in life can be traumatic, such as;

Trauma of any kind can eventually lead someone to an addiction, especially those who develop a mental health disorder because of the traumatic event(s). Many trauma survivors will turn to drugs and alcohol to help cope with their feelings and any sort of mental health problems they may have because of their past traumatic experiences.

Signs and Symptoms of Childhood Trauma

While living with trauma can be different for everyone, there are some clear signs you can look out for if you think you or someone you know may be suffering from their traumatic experiences.

Keep in mind, this is not a complete list of signs or symptoms. If you believe you or someone else you know may be suffering trauma, do not hesitate to ask for help from a professional today!

How Childhood Trauma Impacts the Brain

Childhood trauma has become increasingly associated with addiction later on in life and can have a severe impact on brain development. According to statistical data, 37 percent of women currently in prison report abuse as a child while 14 percent of all men currently in prison report childhood abuse, but it is commonly supported that men are less likely to admit to others when they have been abused. Furthermore, research suggests that more than two-thirds of people in treatment for drug abuse report being abused or neglected as a child. It is important to understand the effects of trauma on the brain during early development in order to understand the powerful connection between addiction and childhood trauma.

The brains of children are literally shaped by traumatic experiences, which can lead to not only problems with addiction but with anger and criminal activity, along with many others as well. Early in life, the human brain is a social organ, hence the term “monkey see, monkey do”. It is shaped by experience, and if one grows up in a state of terror, the brain is wired to be on alert for danger and to make those feelings go away. The negative experience(s) teaches their brain to operate out of a state of fear and anxiety.

Additionally, scientists have discovered that there are also physical changes that can occur with childhood trauma. Brain imaging has shown that the part of the brain that is responsible for processing and emotional regulation changes in size with childhood trauma victims. This can also have an effect on memory and learning. The brain’s inner connections, the brain shape, and its size can all be influenced by the long term stress or abuse of a child.

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Reasons Why Trauma Victims Use Drugs

Aside from the change in the development of the brain, there are several reasons why trauma victims may decide to being using drugs or alcohol, research has shown that these are a few of the most common reasons;

Early childhood trauma is not something that should be taken lightly and we sincerely apologize for any trauma that you or your loved one may be suffering from. If you are experiencing any symptoms of trauma, or are struggling with an addiction, then have we experienced professionals who are trained specifically to understand and help treat victims of trauma or those struggling with an addiction. Call us today, we care about your recovery!

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