Research Outline

Brain Scan & Addiction


The goal is to find brain scans of different types of addictions, as well as how addictions to substances like alcohol, meth, and opiates can affect the brain.

Early Findings

  • Studies have shown that repeated opiate exposure can cause synaptic rewiring in the brain, which negatively affects transmission, learning, and memory.
  • Opiates and heroin floods the brain with much more dopamine than usual and eventually build up a tolerance that causes the brain to naturally reduce the amount of dopamine it produces itself in the future.
  • This chart from Amen Clinics, while not actual brain scans, depict what a SPECT brain scan would look like in different conditions such as healthy, after 3 years of meth use, 10 years of alcohol use, and more.
  • Brain scans can actually show what kind of addict a person is, such as a temporal lobe addict or an impulsive addict.
  • This article contains a brain scan that shows the difference in natural dopamine levels in an addict at the beginning of treatment and after 14 months of recovery.
  • Long-term alcohol abuse can cause Korsakoff syndrome, which causes amnesia, visual disturbances, and confusion.
  • One study showed that the damaging effects of long-term alcohol use can continue even six weeks after the user has stopped drinking completely.
  • This study showed that long term, heavy marijuana use can affect the communication between different areas in the brain and ultimately affect things like learning and retention.
  • Long-term meth use can damage blood vessels in the brain, causing a brain bleed. It can also cause memory loss and impair motor skills over time.