The Neuro-Psychiatrist’s Tale!

Susan Blank, MD

Susan Blank, MD

Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Atlanta Healing Center

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A journey through the realm of psychoactive substances! In the grand theater of the human mind, where I, a neuro-psychiatrist, have spent years exploring, there lies a fascinating and complex world of psychoactive substances. Each day, as I traverse the corridors of my practice, I encounter stories that paint a vivid picture of how these substances weave their intricate tales within the brain.

As a neuro-psychiatrist who has devoted years to exploring the human mind, I witness the complex world of psychoactive substances. Each day, as I traverse the corridors of my practice, I encounter stories that paint a vivid picture of how these substances weave their intricate tales within the brain. Let’s embark on this journey together now.

Our brain is our castle!

Have you ever thought? Why are alcohol, some prescription drugs or illegal drugs addictive, but drugs such as antibiotics, blood pressure medications, aspirin, insulin etc. are not? In my journey as a neuro-psychiatrist, I’ve been continually intrigued by the unique ways in which mood-altering substances interact with the brain, contrasting starkly with substances like antibiotics. This distinction lies deep within the molecular dance that these compounds engage in with our neural architecture. In fact, the way all psychoactive substances such as alcohol, some prescription drugs and illegal drugs affect the brain is the same. All these drugs, alcohol and illegal drugs that we have listed in this category pass the protective membrane of the brain and this causes addiction. However, drugs such as antibiotics do not pass through this protective membrane of the brain, so addiction does not occur. This distinction lies deep in the molecular dance these compounds engage in with our neural architecture.

Crossing the Blood-Brain Barrier! The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a selective filtering mechanism of the brain’s blood vessels. Psychoactive substances have molecular structures that enable them to cross this barrier, unlike many other compounds, such as antibiotics, which are typically designed to target specific bodily systems without needing to enter the brain. Therefore, unlike antibiotics, psychoactive substances cause addiction because they affect the brain. Here, unlike antibiotics that specifically target body systems; such substances mentioned above enter the neural kingdom, just like spies, and begin a dangerous journey with the complex mechanism of the brain!

Dopamine and the Reward Pathway: Once inside the brain, many mood-altering substances exert their effects by influencing the dopamine system. Dopamine, often labeled as the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter, is central to the brain’s reward circuit. Unlike substances such as antibiotics, which are temporary visitors and have targeted functions, psychoactive substances remain for a long time and change the rhythm of the brain.

This system is activated by pleasurable activities, including eating and social interactions, but is hijacked by psychoactive substances, leading to an exaggerated release of dopamine and an intensified feeling of pleasure or euphoria.

Neuroadaptation and Dependence: With regular use, the brain undergoes neuroadaptation – it adjusts to the presence of the substance. This can lead to tolerance (requiring more of the substance to achieve the same effect) and physical dependence (where the body needs the substance to function normally). This is starkly different from non-addictive drugs like antibiotics, which do not interact with the brain’s reward system and are typically used for a short period to treat infections.

Why Quitting One Substance Can Affect Responses to Others
Interconnected neural networks! The brain operates as an interconnected network. When a person quits a substance like alcohol, the brain’s chemistry and activity levels change. If they then use another substance, like marijuana (It is a substance harmful to health as long as it is not used for medical purposes by experts; it is used individually), the altered neural state can respond differently than it would have before. This is due to the complex and interconnected nature of neural pathways and neurotransmitter systems.

The window to the soul

Functional MRI studies, like windows into the brain’s soul, reveal how chronic use of substances like alcohol can sculpt the brain, reshaping regions responsible for decision-making and impulse control. Introducing a new actor, such as marijuana, into this remodeled arena can lead to unforeseen consequences, adding another layer to this complex narrative.

As our journey concludes, we understand that the interaction of mood-altering substances with the brain is not just a series of chemical reactions. It’s a saga, rich and multifaceted, highlighting the need for a nuanced understanding of substance use and its impact on the brain. Recognizing the unique ways in which these substances engage with the brain’s architecture and how they influence each other is crucial for crafting effective strategies for prevention, intervention, and recovery in the realm of substance use disorders.

In this grand tale of the mind and its encounters with psychoactive substances, we, as clinicians and explorers of the human psyche, continue to learn, evolve, and strive to provide empathetic and informed care to those navigating the complex world of substance use.

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The information and statements on our website are not intended to guide individuals towards medical diagnosis and treatment. Please consult with your doctor for medical diagnostic and treatment procedures. The contents are shared for informational purposes only, derived from scientific studies prepared by EMC Medya Yayıncılık Ticaret Ltd. Şti.’s researchers, consultants, and authors/scientists, as well as compilations from publicly available publications. Our texts do not contain health statements related to medical diagnosis or treatment

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