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Exclusive Cognitive Disorder and Substance Abuse Addiction Programs

How Does Drug Use Affect the Brain?
Cognitive problems, such as problems remembering things, can be caused by drug use, diseases, or accidents. Although symptoms of cognitive disorders can fade after drug use, some of these effects may remain after drugs have left your system. A doctor can provide an accurate diagnosis of a disorder through a series of tests and recommend treatment.

Your brain is more than just a tangle of grey material locked inside your skull. Your brain is the most powerful computer you’ll access, able to process information coming from all directions and provide clear instructions for the rest of your body to follow. While you probably never intended to do anything to hurt such a powerful part of your body, many people do damage their brains due to alcohol or drug use.

Many more endure brain damage due to issues that are out of their control, such as diseases or accidents. All of these problems can cause cognitive disorders, or difficulty with thinking clearly.

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Having a cognitive disorder can be irritating or even frightening. There is reason to be hopeful, however. Many people with cognitive disorders can and do get better with treatment, and researchers are learning more every day about how these disorders come about, and how they can be prevented. In addition, there are some things you can do at home to help improve the condition you’re facing.

A Quick Description

Everyone has slips of memory or difficulty with thinking clearly from time to time. After staying up all night to study for a test, for example, a teen might have a significant amount of trouble remembering basic facts like the name of the 14th president. It’s common for the brain to slow down and function less efficiently under this kind of pressure. But people with cognitive disorders have problems that move well beyond the norm. Instead of having a bad day, and then recovering and seeming normal when the next day rolls around, they may have difficulty each and every day.For many people, cognitive disorders begin with mild symptoms that are easy to explain away or ignore. If you’ve experienced these symptoms, you may have told yourself that you’re simply forgetful, an airhead or not very bright. You might have even considered ignoring the symptoms altogether, writing them off as part of your personality. This may not be the best idea. Mild cognitive disorders can sometimes become more serious with time, if they’re not treated. In fact, a study in the journal Neurology found that people with mild cognitive disorders have a higher risk of developing dementia in the following three years, compared to people who do not have mild cognitive disorders. In other words, by ignoring mild symptoms, you could allow more serious symptoms to take hold. It’s not a chance you should take.

Could It Happen to You?

According to the Mayo Clinic, you might have a mild cognitive disorder if you:

  • Have difficulty remembering names or dates
  • Feel overwhelmed when asked to make decisions or explain concepts
  • Make impulsive choices
  • Forget appointments
  • Get lost in familiar surroundings

Link to Substance Abuse

Alcohol abuse and repeated overdoses of drugs can also cause serious changes in the brain that can lead to cognitive disorders. The brain may become filled with tiny debris from the injuries sustained by the abuse, or the small cells in the brain that are used for communication may be damaged, or they might die, and this can make memory problems more likely.

If you abuse alcohol or drugs, you probably experience a form of cognitive disorder when you’re under the influence. Drugs and alcohol numb parts of the brain, while allowing other parts to function at a normal or elevated rate, which often results in a series of strange behaviors. You might slur your words, act erratically, move in unusual ways or have an inability to remember details about your life. As the drugs and alcohol moved out of your system, however, these symptoms probably left too. That doesn’t mean, however, that the abuse left behind no traces. In fact, long-term abuse of alcohol and some drugs can cause cognitive disorders.

Certain drugs cause chemical changes in the brain that can persist long after the drugs are gone. Those changes can make it harder for you to perform basic memory tasks, and they might even make it difficult for you to make good decisions. For example, researchers writing for the journal Trends in Cognitive Science tried to understand why 80 percent of people with addictions don’t receive the treatment they need in order to heal. In the end, these researchers determined that addictions cause problems in the part of the brain that controls impulses and behavior. These deficits could keep addicts from understanding their own addictions. They don’t realize the conditions are serious, and therefore, they don’t get the help they need. It’s a form of cognitive disorder.


In a small study published in the journal Addiction, researchers tested the cognitive ability of people who abused heroin and people who did not. The heroin users performed poorly in tests of both long- and short-term memory, and if they had used alcohol or overdosed on heroin previously, their scores were even lower, when compared to people who never used heroin.

The Link to Mental Health

If you’re depressed, you might have trouble remembering dates, names and directions. In the past, doctors assumed these changes were due to a lack of motivation and a general clouding of the mind that comes with depression. Now, researchers believe that depression and mental health may be linked in a more direct way. According to a study published in the journal Neuroscience, people who were depressed performed poorly on tests of memory, and their scores did not improve when their depression eased. The researchers suspect that depression and cognitive deficits might be caused by the same sort of brain problem, and that curing one may not cure the other.This doesn’t mean, however, that there is no reason to get the best private inpatient treatment for cognitive disorders when you have mental illness. The cognitive disorder may not be “cured” by your treatment, it’s true, but you might be able to stop the problem from getting worse. And, as your mental health improves, you’ll be better equipped to deal with the issues that your cognitive disorder might cause in your life. It’s help worth having.

At-Home Health

There are some things you can do at home to help keep your memory sharp. Try following these tips from the National Institute on Aging:

  • Take a walk. Daily exercise has been associated with better memory.
  • Stay involved. By engaging in a hobby or talking with friends, you’re keeping your mind engaged and your spirits up.
  • Skip the alcohol.
  • Use memory aids, like to-do lists and calendars.

At Your Appointment

In order to provide you with the best form of treatment, your doctor will need to know exactly what is causing your symptoms.

Your doctor might begin by giving you a complete and thorough physical exam, including blood work. Some cognitive problems are caused by completely curable issues, like a lack of vitamins or dehydration. If those problems are found, your doctor can provide you with treatments to turn those issues around. Some other medical issues, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, can also cause cognitive problems. While there might not be quick fixes for those issues, they certainly can be treated and after therapy, your memory and cognitive ability very well may improve. Your doctor might also order scans of your brain, just to make sure there are no injuries there.

Your doctor might also provide you with a series of memory and concentration tests to help determine how well your brain is functioning right now. You might be asked to:
  • Count backwards from 100 in increments of 7.
  • Repeat a series of phrases.
  • Follow a set of commands.
  • Answer questions about history or math.

At the end of this appointment, you’ll have a significant amount of information about what is causing your cognitive disorder, how it may have come about and how it might be treated. Armed with this information, you can pull together a treatment plan that might include medication, therapy or both. It’s the best way to help you deal with the damage that has already occurred, and prevent further damage from taking place.

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