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The addicted brain – Part 3: Pattern of consuming drugs determines spike in psychoactive effects

The addicted brain - Part 3: Pattern of consuming drugs determines spike in psychoactive effects

People have experimented with drugs for many generations and will perhaps continue to do so as a means for activating the brain’s reward center. As drugs enter the body, the bloodstream carries them throughout the system, which reaches the brain as well. One way to check the potency of a drug is by measuring how intense its effects are and how quickly it affects the brain. However, the way the drug is taken into the system can also account for how quickly the drug can travel to the brain and how intense is the level of high experienced. These are known as pharmacokinetic variables reflect the way the body absorbs and distributes a drug.

There are various ways by which a drug can be taken into the system. Some of these ways include smoking, injecting, snorting, ingesting, swallowing, etc. Once any drug sets up a shop in the brain, it has the ability to alter the activities of the neurotransmitters and release high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the areas of the brain like the nucleus accumbens.

During this event, the ebb and flow of dopamine levels coerce the individual to believe that they are experiencing good sensations, thereby making the drug seemingly more desirable. The current article of the series “The addicted brain,” discusses the total time taken for drugs to reach the brain when taken via different ways.

Rapidity and intensity of drug use define severity level

Rapid drug onset and an intermittent exposure to the drug can cause the brain to respond differently. The type of drug taken, the intensity of the dose, how fast it was consumed, and at what intervals define the levels of addictiveness. Some of the patterns of taking drugs and how fast it reaches the brain are detailed below:

  • Smoking: When smoked or inhaled, drugs make way through the lungs and are immediately taken into the bloodstream through the air sacs lining the walls of the lungs. The drug in its vapor form moves from the lungs to the heart where it is pumped throughout the In fact, some of it is pumped directly to the brain. The average time taken for smoked drugs to show effects is seven to 10 seconds.
  • Injecting: Although injecting drugs into one’s vein is the most direct method of taking drugs to show the full effect in the least amount of time, it is still not as fast as smoking or inhaling drugs. Drugs can be injected into a vein muscle, or in the deep layers of the skin. When the drug is injected into the brain, it first reaches the right side of the heart, then the lungs and then the left side of the heart before reaching the brain. Similarly, when drugs are injected directly into muscles or deep within the skin, they follow the same process but take three to five minutes to reach the brain as compared to 15 to 30 seconds when injected into the veins.
  • Snorting: Drugs that are snorted are taken in by blood vessels situated in the mucous membranes in the nasal canal. These blood vessels are situated in proximity to the brain; however, the snorted drugs reach the heart before they are pumped through the system and some of it reaches the brain in three to five minutes.
  • Ingesting: When drugs are consumed like food, liquid, etc., they pass through the esophagus to the stomach and get mixed with the gastric fluids. They then pass to the small intestine where they are absorbed into the tiny blood vessels lining the wall. The contaminated drugs pass through the liver and then the heart, before reaching the brain. Unlike drugs directly injected into the bloodstreams, this method wears down the efficacy of the drug because of absorption barriers and first-pass metabolism. This makes the ingesting drugs the safest, but the most ineffective way to consume a drug. The effects of the drugs are visible through ingestion in about 20 to 30 minutes.

Stand above the influence

The method of taking drugs can assist the health care providers in tailoring intervention plans according to the unique needs of each patient. The consistent use of drugs alters the brain functioning and leads to addiction. When one’s drug-related problems are left unaddressed, he or she stands a high risk of suffering from the negative consequences of drug abuse.

If you or your loved one is battling substance abuse, contact the Texas Substance Abuse Helpline to access the best substance abuse treatment centers in Texas that specialize in delivering evidence-based intervention plans. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-971-2658 or chat online to know more about the substance abuse treatment programs in Texas.

Read the other articles of the series “The addicted brain:”

Part 1: Hardwiring of drug abuse has adverse consequences

Part 2: Repercussions of substance abuse on brain pathways