This is your Brain if you Smoke, Drink, or use Drugs

This is your brain if you smoke, drink, or do drugs

One of the bad habits I had in the past was smoking. I’ve been a regular smoker for more than 9 years. I’ve quit smoking 3 and a half years ago. I did not die after I stopped smoking and my social life did not get worse. I did not feel that I was letting go of something that I love. And if I could do it and feel better, then you sure can do it too.

I want to share with you the remarkable, over 20 years, research conducted by Dr. Daniel G. Amen, as it is in his book Change your Brain, Change your Life.

Dr. Amen is a brain specialist who uses SPECT technology (Single Photon Emission Computerized Tomography) in his clinics to treat patients. A SPECT scan evaluates how your blood flows into and within your brain. It can show areas where blood doesn’t flow, thus allowing through causality to determine the roots of various brain and physical dysfunctions.

Technically (for geeks), a SPECT scan is done by injecting a radioactive isotope into the body of the patient. The isotope is transported in the blood stream throughout the entire body and inside the brain, where various nervous receptors react to it.

Then a SPECT camera rotates around the head of the patient for about 15 minutes, analyzing the areas of the brain where the isotope is and is not visible.

After the scan is completed, a sophisticated computer creates a 3D map exposing the cerebral state of the patient. A more thorough explanation can be found in the book of Dr. Daniel Amen.

Now that you know what a SPECT scan is, I will show you the SPECT scans of different patients.

1. The first scan belongs to a healthy person.

SPECT Healthy Person

Multiple views, healthy brain. See there are no discontinuities or “holes”.

2. This is how the brain of a person abusing nicotine and caffeine looks like:

SPECT Nicotine and Coffeine

Bottom-up view. The subject is a 45 year old person, with 27 years of addiction to nicotine and caffeine (3 packs of cigarettes each day + 3 cups of coffee). You can actually see the decreased activity throughout the entire brain (notice the discontinuities and the “holes” in the brain).

3. Here’s how the brain of a marijuana user looks like:

SPECT Marijuana

Bottom-up view, 16 year old person, 2 years of daily consumption. There is decreased activity in the temporal lobes as well as in the prefrontal cortex.

SPECT Marijuana

Bottom-up view, 28 year old, 10 years of marijuana consumption in the weekends. You can actually notice a lower activity in the temporal lobes and in the prefrontal cortex.

SPECT Marijuana

The comparison between a healthy brain and the brain of a marijuana user (3 years consumption).

4. Here’s how the brain of a person consuming alcohol looks like.

SPECT Alcohol

See below a 3D SPECT scan of a person abusing alcohol for a long period of time:

SPECT Alcohol

5. Here’s how the consumption of methadone and heroin will make your brain look like:

SPECT Methadone

Top view, 40 year old person, 7 years on methadone, 10 years on heroin (before methadone). Brain activity is very poor in general.

SPECT Heroin

Frontal view, 39 year old person, 25 years of frequent heroin use. Same as above, there is a general poor brain activity.

6. This is how the brain of a cocaine addict looks like:

SPECT Cocaine

Top view, 24 years old person, 2 years of frequent consumption of cocaine. Multiple “holes” can be visible throughout the brain.

Now, all these images should be self-explanatory. Remember the “holes” in these brain scans means that blood circulation in those areas is very limited, if not inexistent. This dramatically and negatively impacts the mental and physical functions of these persons.

This is what can happen if you stop abusing alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and drugs:


Top view of the brain of a drug and alcohol addict, while being addicted.


Top view of the brain of the same drug addict a year after giving up on drugs and alcohol. Comparing the two scans, there is improvement in the general brain activity of this person.

Through these images, Dr. Daniel G. Amen (SPECT specialist, psychiatrist, best selling author, as well as CEO of The Amen Clinics) shows us how abusing drugs, alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine can affect the normal functioning of our brains.

It is also self-explanatory that each area of the brain is responsible with one or multiple body functions, such as: cognition, sight, hearing, emotions, smell, taste, hormone regulation, movement, and others). Abusing these substances will impact areas in your brain, which will have an influence on one or more body functions.

Without a normal brain, you are not the same person. However, the last two illustrations show that things can be reversible up to a certain point. If you are abusing one of the substances, quit or get help while you can.

Please share you comments below.


Daniel Amen (1999). Change your Brain, Change your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsiveness.

Photos: here, Beauty and Healthy and Amen Clinics

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One Reply to “This is your Brain if you Smoke, Drink, or use Drugs”

  1. You put a scan here with nicotine and caffeine together. Bad. I really would like to see what Caffeine alone is doing to my brain.

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