How Drugs Affect Your Cognitive Functioning

how drugs affect the cognitive funcitons of the brain

How Drugs Affect Your Cognitive Functioning

Drug addictions affect our livelihood. An insidious function of the drug tells us ‘we can conceal it’, ‘it is your secret’, yet it begins to affect everything. Our family, our friends, our children, our careers, it seems like nothing we can do can help. This downward cycle can be depressing, but did you know that drug addiction affects our cognitive functioning too? Cognitive functioning simply refers to our thinking, or mental activity. Drugs and alcohol change how your brain functions and gets worse with extended use. Additionally, your brain changes again when you stop taking drugs and begin to experience withdrawal symptoms.  It may seem dark and without end, but there is always the possibility for recovery. Florida House Experience believes that we cannot separate the mental issues related to drug use, and drug addiction itself. If you are searching for a light at the end of the tunnel, we are here to talk to you. Our clinical team and on-site psychiatrists are experts on brain functioning and have world-renowned brain experts on staff, with state of the art brain imaging technology. Addiction is a disease that can be overcome with the right help. Give yourself all the tools necessary with a proper analysis and understanding of how your brain functions with and without drugs.

How Drug Addiction Affects the Brain

The effects of cocaine on the brainHave you ever been so hungry you felt sick? Have you ever been so tired that you felt like you were going crazy? Or, perhaps so thirsty that your mouth like sandpaper. How good did that burger, snooze, or glass of water make you feel? Little did you know, that your brain is emitting chemicals that make you feel that way. The reward, pleasure, and motivation centers of your brain are all affected by these actions. When we take drugs, prescription or otherwise, the same thing happens. The issue is, it happens on a much larger scale. Particularly opiate drugs emit powerful levels of chemicals in the brain. This is what causes people to be dependent. The brain becomes used to producing these chemicals, and starts to think it is normal. After a while, the reward, motivation, and memory pathways in our brain are changed, and we can no longer feel normal without these drugs. This is why individuals refer to addiction as a disease, since the brain is literally changed. It is no longer a matter of willpower or hard work. Our brains are simply rewired to crave the drug above all else. It is extremely hard to undo these strong connections in the brain but it can be done with the right help. First, though, we must understand the current state of the brain and the severity of the connection to your drug of choice. Depending on what drug or drugs you use, how long you have been using, how old you are, and your gender will help us determine the best course of action in order to treat your addiction as quickly and have easily as possible.

Cognition After Dependency

The media depiction of drug use skews our thinking, to make us perceive people who are “doped up” or using drugs as crazy or stupid. This is not the case, however, tests on the thinking of individuals who use drugs show staggering results. It may not always be slurring words, inability to balance, or so on, however, these are effects on our cognition. The repeated use of drugs can impact our brain to the point where we are unable to do things like sleep, walk in a straight line, or speak properly. The reason being is that drugs affect our brain, which in turn affects our behavior. We may think that our brain is functioning normally when in reality there are significant changes.


The effects of opiates on the brainDrug addiction has, perhaps, one of the most profound effects on memory. In one extreme case, recorded in Oliver Sack’s book, a man who overly abused alcohol and other drugs were no longer able to form adequate memories. This situation might be reminiscent of the short-term memory loss in 50 First Dates. Though a very extreme case, it is a real example of how alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder affect our memory. In tests as simple as animal naming tests, the results are stunning. After repeated drug use, or drug addiction, our brain simply cannot handle it, and we begin to have difficulty remembering. This can present either as short-term memory loss, or long-term memory loss. Either way, both results are the same, drug addiction affects the way we remember things, and it affects it poorly. Short-term memory loss is the first to go, as we begin to lose the memory function of our brain immediately after using drugs. We may not be able to remember anything that is going on while we are on the drugs. Even with more minor drugs like marijuana, memory loss is very common. With that in mind, you can understand how much more severe it gets when your brain is exposed to more intense drugs. Excessive alcohol use is often referred to as “Blacking out”, where we remember nothing from the night before. We may have made bad decisions or hurt friends and family without even realizing. Long-term memory is also heavily affected. The longer we use drugs, we will begin to lose memories from our past that we have always had. Outside the days we are actually using drugs or alcohol, it can have a permanent effect on long-term memories from our younger days or our childhood. The negative effects on memory are enough for someone to want to seek help. At the Florida house, we can evaluate your current state and take steps to help reverse the negative memory related issues in your brain.

Motor Functioning

Below are a few points of research in relation to various chronic drug disorders and their effects on cognition.

  • cocaine—deficits in cognitive flexibility
  • amphetamine—deficits in attention and impulse control
  • opioids—deficits in cognitive flexibility
  • alcohol—deficits in working memory and attention
  • cannabis—deficits in cognitive flexibility and attention
  • nicotine—deficits in working memory and declarative learning

All of these are examples of the ways that drugs affect our thinking, but how do they affect our actions? All of us know that thoughts govern our actions, but our cognition really determines our motor functioning. You think (usually subconsciously) to move your arm and it moves, you want to walk and you do. However, after intense drug addiction, our motor functions slow. The pathways of the brain to our actions have become impaired and damaged. Thus, it is not uncommon to experience a delay in something we hear, and possibly the thing we say. Or, it could be something like changing the way we walk. Suddenly we have more trouble walking normally than usual. Often times it is a delay in what we think and what we do. These issues can extend long after a person become sober. Depending on how long you have been using drugs, the after effects on your motor function may be permanent. That being said, these motor skills and pathways can be rebuilt over time with the right guidance and resources. The first step is to seek help for your addiction right away, only then can you begin to rebuild your motor functions and prevent further damage. The second step is to ensure the treatment program you enter ha the ability to address these issues. The effects on the bring and very significant and without the proper doctor overseeing your recovery, you can miss out on vital advice and treatment options.

Mental Illness

The effects of hallucinogens on the brainIt would be remiss to discuss our cognition without talking about mental health. The fact is, our cognition includes our mental health as well. Drug addiction and mental illness are inseparably linked. This is one of the reasons why we at FHE Health are so passionate about treating both. However, often times one can cause the other. There is no definite answer to which causes which, sometimes it is a “both, or” situation. Depression can usually lead to isolation, and the drug use makes us happy, so we slowly become dependent, then addicted. Or, we become addicted, they become isolated, then our brain develops depression. The same is true of anxiety. Stress and addiction are intermittently connected. Often drug addictions are formed because we need to relax. An anxious individual will become addicted to depressants that calm them down. Or we can develop an addiction and suddenly we can’t behave the same, keep a secret constantly, or maintain our job. This causes stress, which causes anxiety. Either way, our drug addiction affects our thinking, which affects our mental health. Get help today. When looking for help, it is important to make sure that any addiction treatment program you enter also has mental health treatment programs in place. Without addressing both addictive and mental issues together, you lower your chance of long-term sobriety and happiness. Nearly 70% of people with an addiction to drugs or alcohol also have an accompanying mental health disorder. Get the help that will treat all aspects of your mental and behavioral well being.

Connect With Us

If you are struggling, we at the Florida Health Experience want to help you. Do not try to go somewhere and treat the addiction without the cognition. We want to do a bit of both. If you have any question or need more information about one of our incredible facilities, look no further than our contact number, (844) 299-0618. Along with this, we have a contact page that can help answer any questions or hear from you. Please do not hesitate. Reclaim your thoughts, cognition, and mental health today.

FHE Health has helped thousands of people get through addiction and mental health issues. We are experts in all aspects of brain function and addictive disorders and would love to help you get started on the right path. But you must make the first step and reach out for help.

Contact Us Today

We are available 24/7 to answer your questions and concerns. Fill out the form below to begin your journey towards recovery today!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.