You're probably familiar with the famous 1980s commercial "This Is Your Brain On Drugs," in which a Partnership For Drug Free America compares your brain under the influence to a sizzling egg in a frying pan.
If a new study from the Department of Energy's Brookhaven Natural Laboratory is any indication, the PSA-turned-pop culture phenomenon might not be too far from the truth. Research released this week suggests that people addicted to certain types of drugs might actually have lower density in crucial parts of their brain.
This and previous studies have shown that cocaine-addicted individuals, relative to non-addicted individuals, have lower gray matter density in frontal parts of the brain - which is important for paying attention and organizing one's own behavior - and in the hippocampus, a brain region important for learning and memory.
But it doesn't stop at cocaine. The study revealed that persistent alcohol or cigarette consumption may have a similar effect, as PsyPost explains:
The longer cocaine, alcohol, and cigarettes were abused, the lower gray matter was found in the hippocampus and frontal regions of the brain. This result means that curtailing drug use may be protective against such brain changes.
The study did not test the effects of other substances. It did, however, clarify that genetic makeup may predispose certain individuals to lose brain matter over others.