How Drugs Affect Men’s Brains

How Drugs Affect Men’s Brains

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the brain is at the center of our functioning and controls all activities including the following:

  • Regulating your body’s basic functions
  • Enabling you to interpret and respond to everything you experience
  • Shaping your thoughts, emotions and behavior

The brain is a very complex system that is comprised of many systems that work together in a cohesive manner. Unfortunately, drugs can alter this intricate relationship and actually increase people’s craving for continued use of drugs.

The primary influence that drugs have on the brain deals with the way that neurons send, receive and process information. With some drugs, such as marijuana and heroin, the communication system of neurons is compromised because these dugs mimic the natural neurotransmitters, which lead to abnormal messages being sent throughout the brain.

Amphetamines and cocaine, on the other hand, interfere not by mimicking the neurons but actually forcing them to release abnormally large amounts of the neurotransmitters, which again disrupts the normal communication.

The most insidious aspect of drug’s impact on the brain results from the drugs impacting the pleasure center. Because the drugs produce such a euphoric effect, the behavior to continue to use drugs is heavily reinforced.

Drugs Affect Men Differently

According to Scientific American, different drug categories have different gender reactions. With prescription painkillers, men do not receive as much benefit from these drugs but are more likely to overdose on painkillers than women. The belief is that the levels of estrogen and other female hormones cause this disparity. With antidepressants, men respond better to tricyclics while women respond better to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) therapy.

For psychotropic drugs such as sleep aids, men metabolize the drugs quicker which enable the drug to leave the body more quickly, thus reducing side effects. Men’s kidneys also process drugs more quickly thereby allowing men to process anti-anxiety medications and benzodiazepines better than women.

Drugs and Other Male Health Issues

In addition to how drugs differ in their effect on men’s brains, another major health concern regarding drugs and men is the impact that drugs have on their fertility. In their article, “Drugs and Male Fertility,” the Cleveland Clinic describes several drugs and their impact on fertility including the following:

  • Testosterone effects sperm production by stopping a man’s production of natural testosterone.
  • Anabolic steroids impacts male fertility in the same way as testosterone.
  • Heavy alcohol consumption can decrease the production of natural testosterone and actually increase a man’s estrogen levels.
  • Marijuana decreases sperm production, lessens sexual drive and effects sperm movement.
  • Both prescribed and illegal opiates can cause low testosterone and decrease the quantity and quality of the sperm.
  • The medications used to treat prostate enlargement and hair loss may cause a decrease in the volume of the semen and the total number of sperm in the semen.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can prevent the proper movement of sperm through the reproductive tract.

While male fertility issues are a serious concern for many men, the risk of abuse of drugs or alcohol is a more worrisome issue. Therefore, if you are taking any of the prescribed medications or illegally using drugs that affect your brain or your fertility, you want to find the right treatment option for you.

Addiction Treatment Services for Men

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) describes a variety of treatment options for substance use disorders which can include the following:

  • Individual counseling – This type of counseling conducted one-on-one with a therapist allows people to explore the underlying issues that may have lead to their alcohol or drug abuse issues. Having a clearer picture of these issues enables people to find alternative and healthier methods for coping with them.
  • Group counseling – Addiction affects all people involved in the addict’s life. Some group counseling focuses on family therapy to help the family unit understand their roles and responsibilities in assisting the addict achieve and maintain a sober life. Other group counseling sessions involve other addicts who can share experiences and resources to help each other.
  • Inpatient and residential treatment – Because addicts are removed from their normal lifestyle and enter a structured setting, they are often better able to focus on taking advantage of the benefits of treatment.
  • Intensive outpatient treatment – Providing a more flexible environment, which many addicts may require, outpatient treatment often uses many of the same therapies as inpatient treatment.
  • Recovery support services – After people have completed a more formal treatment program, recovery support services are viable resources to help a person avoid relapse. These services may include 12-Step programs or peer support groups.

SAMSHA provides a great deal of information, along with a treatment locator, to help people identify treatment options that are available to them. It makes sense to find a treatment program that meets your specific needs and accommodates your personal requirements. By taking the time to learn about the various options, you are in a better place to make the right treatment decision for you.

Get Help for Men Dealing With Addiction

Men have unique brain and body chemistry that impact how they react to drugs, addiction and treatment. It is important for you to understand your specific needs and to find the right treatment options for you. We can help you do this, so please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about your treatment options.