Impaired Decision Making in Addiction

Jul 06, 2009 No Comments by

People entering recovery for dependency issues may feeltheir lives are beyond repair, regretting decisions they made in addiction. Oncedrug and alcohol dependence sets in, the ability to make rational and wise decisionsbecomes impaired. While alcohol and drugs affect different parts of the brain,all forms of chemical dependency can lead to faulty perceptions, rash judgmentsand addiction-fueled choices. This can lead the alcohol or drug dependentperson to feel impulsive, absent-minded, mentally slowed or creatively blocked.In actuality, these reactions are directly linked to the temporary impairmentand long term damage to the brain that dependency causes.

Alcohol Dependency and Impaired Decision Making

From the first drink, the frontal lobe of the brain becomesaffected. Because the frontal lobe controls judgment and reasoning, decisionsmade under the influence of alcohol become irrational and impulsive. Long-termuse of alcohol can begin to affect the brain's cerebellum, resulting in damagethat causes slowed cognition. Even stereotypically “drunk” behaviors such asslurred speech and unsteady footing can be made permanent when irreversibledamage to the cerebellum occurs.

Addictive Drugs and Impaired DecisionMaking

Studies show that those under theinfluence of cocaine tend to experience memory and recall problems as well asissues with rational decision-making. Cognitive abilities can becomeimpaired by chronic opiate use, negatively affecting learning, concretethinking and logical abilities. Methamphetamine use can also affect cognitivethought abilities by altering the brain structure.

Impaired Decisions While Driving

Because of the attention, focus and reflex that driving a vehicle requires, alcohol and drug dependency tends to lead to problems on the road. More than two million people every year drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In fact, every two minutes in the United States, an alcohol-related accident occurs. While the drug or alcohol dependent person might feel they are “fine to drive,” their perception of their own inebriation and current capacity skews. Nearly half of all car crash fatalities happen in alcohol-related traffic accidents and one fifth of vehicular injuries involve alcohol.


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