Ways that Drugs Can Cause Impaired Judgment

October 29, 2014

a drawing of a person with a clouded brain

Every type of drug, no matter how potent or addictive, has some type of effect on the person using it. These effects can range from mild to severe, and can include both physical and psychological symptoms. While each drug is different, one common effect of drug use is impaired judgment.

Every drug side effect has the potential to be dangerous, but impaired judgment can be especially risky to a person physically, psychologically and socially. It is essential to use drugs with extreme caution, knowing that they can impair a person’s judgment in multiple and sometimes unexpected ways.

Common Types of Drugs that Impair Judgment

People use drugs for many reasons. Some use them legally to treat a physical or mental health condition, while others use them illegally in order to relax or get high. Regardless of a person’s motivation for using a drug, she will likely experience at least some unwanted side effects. Impaired judgment occurs with any type of drug that affects a person’s brain.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) lists the following most common types of drugs that affect a person’s judgment, along with their related side effects:

  • Marijuana: drowsiness, impaired short-term memory and decrease in attention
  • Cocaine: euphoria, erratic behavior, anxiety and mood disturbances
  • Prescription stimulants: increased attention, anxiety, psychosis and hostility
  • Prescription depressants: increased drowsiness
  • Opioids: euphoria, clouded thinking, alternating alert and drowsy states
The NIDA also describes the changes that occur in a person’s brain while on drugs. The chemicals in the drug disrupt the communication system of the brain, changing the way it processes information by either acting like the brain’s natural neurotransmitters, or by causing the brain to release too many neurotransmitters.

With continued abuse of the drug, the person’s brain begins to compensate for the surges in neurotransmitters by reducing the natural production. This in turn can trigger the person to take larger quantities of the drug in order to achieve the initial effect. This manipulation of the brain’s communication system is one of the primary ways that drug use leads to addiction.

Addiction is another way that drugs can cause impaired judgment. When a person has an addiction, she will often go to great lengths to continue using the drug. This desperation often causes the person to make poor decisions.

Driving While Intoxicated

One of the most dangerous decisions a person can make while under the influence of drugs is to operate a vehicle. The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that, in the year before the survey, over 10 million Americans aged 12 and older drove while intoxicated by some form of illegal substance. The NIDA explains that intoxicated driving is extremely dangerous because of the ways that drugs impair the following faculties:

  • Attention
  • Balance and coordination
  • Motor skills
  • Perception
  • Reaction time

Because of the many ways that drugs negatively affect a person’s judgment, it can be dangerous to attempt difficult or important tasks while under the influence of drugs.

Learn More Information About Drug Use and Impaired Judgment

If you or someone you love is struggling with the negative effects of drug use, or if you’ve made poor decisions while under the influence of drugs, please give us a call at 615-490-9376. Our admissions counselors are available to help you find a quality treatment program that will best suit your needs.

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