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Effects of Substance Abuse on Gray Brain Matter

Effects of Substance Abuse on Gray Brain Matter

Various neuroimaging studies have shown the effects of substance abuse on gray brain matter.

These studies show gray brain matter abnormalities in individuals who engage in substance abuse.1 As a nationwide drug and alcohol treatment center, we understand how long-term drug and alcohol abuse can affect the brain. Not only do these substances create a chemical imbalance with continued use, but they can also deteriorate areas of the brain – like gray matter – that are crucial for basic functions.

What Does the Gray Matter of the Brain Do?

The central nervous system (CNS) is made up of two different types of tissues: gray matter and white matter. Clusters of gray matter deep within the brain are called nuclei. Gray brain matter is made up of neuronal cell bodies and unmyelinated axons. These axons extend from one cell body to another and act as messengers by carrying signals between them. This brain tissue got its name because these axons are unmyelinated, which means they aren’t covered in a white, fatty protein called myelin. Simply put, the function of gray matter in the brain is to process information. It plays a huge role in helping us properly process basic functions and complete basic tasks. Gray matter in the brain processes signals that are produced by our sensory organs, such as our eyes, hands, tongue, ears, and nose. Any stimuli that are picked up by these organs are carried to the gray matter in our brain, where they’re processed. The brain then decides how to respond to them.

In addition to problems with gray matter, people who abuse drugs and alcohol are more likely to struggle with cardiovascular disease, organ damage, skin disease, and more. If you’re battling with a substance abuse disorder, you can begin your road to recovery with our medically monitored detox. Several of our Banyan rehab facilities offer medical detox to help patients safely quit drugs and alcohol. Our detoxification treatments are led by a team of licensed medical personnel who may administer medication to patients as needed for withdrawal symptoms.

What Are the Effects of Substance Abuse on Gray Brain Matter?

A study conducted on the volume of gray matter in the brains of cocaine addicts concluded that gray matter volume in the brain decreased with continuous use. The same study also concluded that gray brain matter volumes actually increased as a result of abstinence.2 While this study focused mainly on the effects of cocaine on the brain, it presents an idea of the impact of substance abuse. As recent as 2018, around 164.8 million people aged 12 or older in the United States (60.2 percent of the population at the time) were substance users. These substances included alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs.3 Drug and alcohol are ongoing problems in the U.S., especially considering the fact that the nation is currently in the middle of an opioid epidemic that began in the late 1990s.

Gray matter is crucial to completing basic tasks and functions. Heavy drinking and chronic drug abuse change the chemical makeup of the brain and inhibit the body’s ability to absorb nutrients that are necessary for maintaining health. When these processes are interrupted by addiction, they can lead to other serious problems.

There are several side effects of substance abuse on gray matter, including:

  • Decreased cognitive function
  • Loss of memory
  • Mood swings
  • Problems learning or absorbing new information
  • Decreased ability to focus and concentrate
  • Decreased impulse control
  • Decrease in self-control regarding drug use or drinking
  • Increased drug and alcohol cravings
  • Inhibited decision-making abilities

The effects of alcoholism and drug abuse on the brain include deterioration of certain regions, breaking vital connections. This can make daily living difficult and even lead to other physical and mental problems. Not only can substance abuse affect gray brain matter, but it can also cause relationship and financial struggles, as well.

If you or someone you care about is currently stuck in the cycle of substance abuse, the best thing you can do is get help. Call Banyan Treatment Centers now at 888-280-4763 to learn more about our facility locations and levels of care

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Effects of Substance Abuse on Gray Brain Matter
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