Long-Term Effects Of Drug Abuse

Individuals rarely think of the long-term effects of drug addiction. They remain focused on obtaining the high and stay in the moment. Nevertheless, they discover they have negatively impacted their health and developed conditions such as heart disease and liver damage. Anxiety disorders and depression also become concerns when a person abuses drugs. The drugs change the brain’s chemistry and make it challenging to stop using. Once a person stops using, the brain struggles to return to normal. Furthermore, the addiction affects the person in other ways. They might find they have relationship issues, financial difficulties, legal problems, and more. Anyone trying to overcome an addiction to drugs should consider professional drug and alcohol rehab.


Physical Effects

Drug abuse affects the body in a variety of ways. Some damage lasts for years or is permanent. Individuals, however, find they can reverse the damage if they stop using drugs and seek help. The damage ranges from mild to severe, and no organ in the body remains exempt from damage.

Cardiovascular health suffers when a person uses drugs. Stimulants put additional strain on the heart and cause more damage every time the person uses their substance of choice. A person might learn they suffer from heart failure or another form of long-term heart disease and injecting drugs into the body may lead to vein collapse or heart and blood vessel infections.

Drugs harm the liver, even prescription opioids recommended by a doctor. When a person uses legal or illegal drugs together with alcohol, the damage increases. Extreme use can lead to deadly liver failure.

People rarely realize the damage drugs do to their stomach and intestines. They attribute the acid reflux, constipation, or chronic pain they experience to other causes. Halting drug use can help to ease or eliminate these issues.

Any time a person smokes a substance, it enters their lungs. This can lead to damage, including lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. Furthermore, opioids depress breathing, of concern to individuals suffering from asthma.

The kidneys filter toxins from the body, and this includes illegal drugs present in the system. Drug use often brings about damage to these organs and may cause their failure. Kidney failure becomes life-threatening without treatment. Increased body temperature, dehydration, and the breakdown of muscle tissue bring about this failure, thus anyone using drugs needs to monitor their kidney function and seek medical help if they detect any changes.


Changes in Brain Chemistry

When a person uses drugs, they experience a high brought on by the drug’s action in the brain. These drugs target the reward system of the brain, activating it and bringing on this sense of pleasure. They do so by releasing large quantities of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that triggers this extreme sense of euphoria or pleasure. This overstimulation of certain parts of the brain leads to a person wanting to use the drug again. With continued use, this overstimulation changes the chemistry of the brain. Why is this important?

With regular overstimulation, the brain produces less natural dopamine. It does so to accommodate for the overflooding of the brain with dopamine through drug use. The person finds it more difficult to find any pleasure in life, and the addict feels lifeless and depressed. In addition, the person develops a tolerance and must take more of the drug to achieve the desired effect. How else do drugs change brain chemistry?

A person’s cognitive function changes with drug use. Glutamate, a neurotransmitter found in the human reward system, alters when a person uses drugs. The brain must compensate for these changes, and the individual finds it more challenging to learn and think.

 As the brain chemistry changes, the person finds they experience changes in their learning and memory. They find cues in the environment that lead to cravings for their drug of choice, and they struggle to control these cravings.

Furthermore, connections within the brain change when a person uses drugs. Drug use leads to new connections between neurons being made. Other connections that have been in use diminish. Brain cells die off and they never return. This serves as one type of permanent damage resulting from drug use.

A person finds that quitting drugs allows them to recover from the cravings and learn alternative ways to cope with life. Addicts must be patient, as the recovery process takes time. In fact, patients find after three months of being drug-free they still struggle in some areas. This helps to explain why addicts must continue moving forward, never assuming they can have one hit of their favorite drug and be fine. Most find this isn’t the case and they backslide, leading to the need to start the entire process over again.


Psychological Effects

Many drug addicts suffer from mental illness and vice versa. The risk factors for both diseases remain similar, and research suggests drug use and abuse can bring about mental health issues, contribute to existing ones, or make them worse. In fact, drug addicts remain twice as likely to receive a diagnosis of a mood or anxiety disorder. Anxiety and depression remain the most common diagnoses, but there are countless others.


Indirect Effects

Men and women often make decisions or take actions they wouldn’t if they weren’t under the influence of a substance. Although the choices a person makes might not directly result from drug use, they are related. What are some examples of this?

Legal problems remain commonplace among drug addicts. Law enforcement may catch this individual driving under the influence of the drug, or they could commit a crime to secure the funds to purchase their drug of choice.

Relationship problems often arise when one or both partners abuse drugs. This happens when one partner lies about where their money is going and purchases drugs with funds that were needed for another purpose. The addict might become violent while under the influence or cheat on their partner. This damage is often difficult to repair if they can even save the relationship.


While these   long-term effects of drug use remain concerning, there is one every addict must remain aware of. Drugs often kill individuals over a period of time, but one dose could also be fatal. Street drugs remain the biggest concern with this effect of drug use, but prescription drugs also kill when they are used improperly. Furthermore, combining drugs with alcohol increases the risk of overdose and death. Fortunately, men and women struggling to overcome a drug addiction find they need help. They must know where to turn to get this help and remain committed to the process. Those who do so find they are looking at a better future in every way.




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Written by HealthStatus Crew
Medical Writer & Editor

HealthStatus teams with authors from organizations to share interesting ideas, products and new health information to our readers.

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