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How Do Drugs Change Your Brain? Test Your Knowledge

Your brain makes you who you are. It lets you think, breathe, move, speak, and feel; it’s the most complicated “machine” ever. But when drugs enter the brain, they interfere with its normal functions and, over time, can even change how well it works.

To learn some of the ways drugs affect the brain, take the quiz below. Answers are listed after the questions.

True or false: When a person uses drugs for a long time, the effects on the person’s brain can become permanent—even if they stop using drugs. Drugs work in the brain because they have similar: a. Electrical charges as brain cells b. Size and shape as natural brain chemicals c. Nerve cells as the brain Because of drugs’ effects on the brain, people who use a drug over and over can develop “tolerance” for the drug. This means: a. They need more of the drug to get the same effect b. They need less of the drug to get the same effect c. They get bored with using the drug True or false: A person’s brain continues to develop until they’re about 25 years old. That’s one important reason for teens to avoid drugs.


True. Think of your brain as a pile of cement: While it’s setting (developing), you can still make changes in it (like drawing things) that will stay there when it dries. But once the cement hardens, you can’t make any more changes, and you can’t get rid of the changes you’ve already made.

In a similar way, when a teen uses drugs, they can make changes in a brain that’s still developing—and those changes may “harden” once the brain is fully developed. Repeated drug use also can eventually lead to dramatic changes in neurons and brain circuits, creating a greater need for more of the drug just to feel normal.

Addiction is sometimes compared to a learning process: The brain learns to want and need the drug—and just like riding a bike, it can be very hard to “un-learn” the behavior of drug-taking.

B. Drugs can “fool” the brain because they’re similar in size and shape as the natural brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, so they fit into brain receptors and start an unnatural chain reaction of electrical charges. A. If a person uses the drug over and over, a tolerance can develop, which means the person needs more of the drug than before to get the same “high.” True. The human brain does continue to grow until about the age of 25. For instance, the prefrontal cortex, sometimes called the “CEO of the brain,” is one of the last parts of the brain to mature.


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