We know that the same sort of mechanisms involved in the development of tolerance can eventually lead to profound changes in neurons and brain circuits, with the potential to severely compromise the long-term health of the brain. For example, glutamate is another neurotransmitter that influences the reward circuit and the ability to learn. When the optimal concentration of glutamate is altered by drug abuse, the brain attempts to compensate for this change, which can cause impairment in cognitive function. Similarly, long-term drug abuse can trigger adaptations in habit or non-conscious memory systems. Conditioning is one example of this type of learning, in which cues in a person’s daily routine or environment become associated with the drug experience and can trigger uncontrollable cravings whenever the person is exposed to these cues, even if the drug itself is not available. This learned “reflex” is extremely durable and can affect a person who once used drugs even after many years of abstinence.
Carbohydrates are one of the major forms of energy for animals and plants. Plants build carbohydrates using light energy from the sun (during the process of photosynthesis), while animals eat plants or other animals to obtain carbohydrates. Plants store carbohydrates in long polysaccharides chains called starch, while animals store carbohydrates as the molecule glycogen. These large polysaccharides contain many chemical bonds and therefore store a lot of chemical energy. When these molecules are broken down during metabolism, the energy in the chemical bonds is released and can be harnessed for cellular processes.