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Use of cocaine and meth may wear away users’ decision making: Study

Drug use should never be encouraged as it can have undesirable health consequences on the users. A person hooked on to drugs generally makes poor choices or inappropriate selections that can pose a significant challenge to his or her day-to-day life. While it is well-known that powerful chemicals in drugs can alter the brain chemistry, a new study has come up with an explanation for negative attributes, including poor decision-making abilities, shown by heavy drug users.

In the study, published in the online journal Psychopharmacology, researchers from the University of New Mexico and The Mind Research Network (MRN), revealed that regular use of drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, can obstruct a user’s ability to infer what is right and what is wrong. The drugs interfere with the brain regions that are involved in reasoning and decision-making.

Stimulant users had less activity in key brain areas involved in moral cognition

The study findings were based on an analysis of prisoners, comprising 131 cocaine and meth users and 80 non-users, in New Mexico and Wisconsin prisons. The prisoners had their brains scanned while completing a task that helped the researchers test their decision-making abilities.

The researchers found differences between drug users and nonusers in terms of activity in certain brain regions. As compared to those who never used drugs, the group of prisoners who had repeatedly used cocaine or meth had irregular and less amounts of activity in the regions of the brain responsible for moral and emotion processing, such as the frontal lobes, the limbic regions and the amygdala. In addition, they exhibited reduced amounts of activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, which regulates feelings and aids in decision-making.

The findings indicated that a year-long drug use or abuse had significant negative impact on the key brain areas involved in moral cognition, which further paralyzed the abusers’ ability to judge. The results seemed to coincide with a previous research which suggested that stimulant drug users may have decreased volumes of the same brain regions, as compared to nonusers.

“This is the first study to suggest impairments in the neural systems of moral processing in both cocaine and methamphetamine users,” said the lead author Samantha Fede, a graduate student in the department of psychology, the University of New Mexico. However, she believed that more research is needed to better understand the differences in brain regions in stimulant users. Moreover, it is yet to be seen whether the results are applicable to the general abusers as well, who are not in prison.

Cocaine and meth are powerful and extremely addictive stimulant drugs that can have a variety of adverse effects on the users. Prolonged use of meth is known to cause weight reduction, and dental and skin problems. Meth abuse can also increase a user’s risk of stroke and chances of developing Parkinson’s disease. Similarly, cocaine abuse can shrink blood vessels, dilate pupils and increase heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure.

Recovery road map

Addiction to any substance, be it alcohol or drugs, is hazardous in many ways. While it is advisable to stay away from these substances, one should also know that addiction is highly treatable. The first step to recover from an addiction is always to realize and admit that one has the problem and seek guidance regarding its treatment.

If you or a loved one is in the grip of an addiction, get in touch with an addiction expert immediately. The 24/7 Recovery Helpline can help you get connected to the best drug rehab centers in the U.S. You may call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-441-4405 or chat online with one of the representatives to learn more about drug and alcohol abuse treatment centers in your vicinity. Our team will help find the most reputed rehab facility where treatment is comprehensive and recovery long term.

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