It is common knowledge that drugs work their primary impact on the brain. But many people do not understand exactly what causes the effects of drugs inside the brain. What processes or natural functions are changed or interrupted?
Neurons are nerve cells and brain cells. A neuron is made up of a nucleus, dendrites, and axons. The axons of the neuron communicate with other neurons through a small space called a synapse.
This tiny space between the two cells is pivotal for brain and nervous system function. In a healthy brain neurotransmitters, tiny chemical messengers, are sent from the axon of one nerve cell to the other in the synapse.
The sender cell manufactures and releases the all-important neurotransmitters like norepenephrine (adrenaline), serotonin (responsible for mood, appetite, and sleep regulation), GABA, dopamine, and others.
The receiver cell has receptor sites shaped perfectly to fit only the specific neurotransmitter intended for that site. Once the neurotransmitter has plugged into the receptor site and released, the original sender cell will vacuum back up the used neurotransmitter for reprocessing, through a reuptake valve.
This process is just as intricate, delicate, and important as it sounds. These tiny neurotransmitters are responsible for so much of what we do, feel, and experience, that without them, the brain would cease to function.
Mind-altering drugs all effect nerve cells and the production and use of neurotransmitters. Each drug affects these processes in its own way, but all effect dopamine, the pleasure and pain-relieving chemical used to reward survival behaviors in the reward center of the brain.
Knowing the fragility of this process should help those considering experimenting with drugs to reconsider. DUI’s happen for a reason. Drugs affect brain function. This important function of the brain is best left alone.