The Short- and Long-Term Effects of Addicting Substances on the Brain
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Drugs are substances that have a physiological effect after introduction into the body or brain. Drugs of abuse have addictive properties that cause a high susceptibility of misuse and abuse, making these substances very dangerous. The reward pathway in the brain enhances pleasurable responses, facilitating addiction and susceptibility of abuse. The primary neurotransmitter in this pathway is dopamine. A few of the most prevalent drugs of abuse are marijuana, nicotine, and prescription drugs, specifically narcotics. Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States. Nicotine is another very prominent abused substance in the United States, and deaths and illnesses from this substance are some of the most preventable. Prescription drugs are becoming one of the most dangerous classes of illicit drugs. The rate of overdose from prescription drugs in the United States surpassed the number of deaths from automobile crashes in 2009. Each of these substances have significant short- and long-term effects on the brain and body. The short- and long-term effects of substances are different on adult and adolescent brains, because adolescent brains are much more sensitive to substances since they are still developing. Nicotine and prescription drug abuse cause a significant and increasing number of deaths per year.