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The Long-Term Physical and Mental Effects of Drug Addiction

Effects of Drug Addiction,

Drug and alcohol addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD), is considered a health crisis in the United States. More than 48.7 million people in the U.S. who are 12 years old or older have an SUD. A treatable mental disorder, SUD affects an individual’s brain and behavior. They are unable to control their use of alcohol, drugs, or medications despite the adverse effects on their personal, professional, and social lives. The long-term consequences of drug use and addiction on the person’s physical and mental health can be severe and potentially fatal.

The Physical and Mental Effects of Drug Addiction

Chronic drug use can have a profound impact on almost every part of the body, leading to a wide range of long-term physical and mental effects. The extent and severity of these effects often depend on the type of drug abused, the frequency and duration of use, genetics, and individual health factors.

Long-term Physical Effects of Drug Addiction

Here is a list of some common long-term physical effects of chronic drug use and drug addiction.

  1. Cardiovascular Issues: Drug use can cause long-term damage to the heart and circulatory system, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and hypertension.
  2. Liver Damage: Substances can severely damage the liver over time, leading to fatty liver, hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
  3. Kidney Damage: Drugs can harm the kidneys through direct toxicity or dehydration and increased body temperature, potentially leading to kidney failure or severe dysfunction.
  4. Respiratory Problems: Smoking drugs such as crack cocaine can damage the lungs and respiratory system, leading to chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and an increased risk of lung infections and cancer.
  5. Neurological Impairment: Many drugs can cause long-term changes in the brain, affecting cognitive functions, memory, and emotions. This can lead to problems with decision-making, impulse control, and depression.
  6. Gastrointestinal Issues: Drug abuse can cause a range of gastrointestinal problems, from constipation and diarrhea to severe conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and pancreatitis.
  7. Musculoskeletal Weakness: Steroid abuse can lead to muscle damage and weakness, while other drugs may cause decreased bone density, increasing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
  8. Dental Issues: Drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine can lead to severe dental problems, including tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss.
  9. Reproductive System Damage: Both male and female reproductive systems can be adversely affected, leading to issues such as hormonal imbalances, infertility, and complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
  10. Immune System Suppression: Chronic drug use can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections and diseases.
  11. Malnutrition and Weight Loss: Drug use can lead to a decrease in appetite and neglect of nutrition, causing weight loss and malnutrition.

Long-term Mental Effects of Drug Addiction

Long-term mental effects of drug use can significantly impair an individual’s psychological and emotional well-being. Different substances can lead to various mental health issues, ranging from mild cognitive impairments to severe mental disorders. Here is a list of potential long-term mental effects of drug abuse. 

  1. Cognitive Impairments: Continuous drug abuse can lead to difficulties in learning, memory, and attention. Substance use can affect the brain’s ability to process and recall information, making it challenging for individuals to perform tasks that require concentration and making decisions.
  2. Depression: Drugs can alter the brain’s chemistry and lead to feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and disinterest in life. These feelings can evolve into major depressive disorder.
  3. Anxiety Disorders: Drug abuse can exacerbate or contribute to the development of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. 
  4. Paranoia and Psychosis: Certain substances, especially stimulants like methamphetamine and hallucinogens, can cause paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations. With long-term use, these experiences can evolve into lasting psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia.
  5. Mood Swings: The highs and lows associated with drug use and withdrawal can create severe mood swings. Over time, these can undermine emotional stability and lead to unpredictable and erratic behavior.
  6. Social Withdrawal and Isolation:  Over time, the focus on drug use can lead to withdrawal from social activities and isolation from family and friends. This can further contribute to feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety.
  7. Personality Changes: Long-term drug abuse can lead to profound personality changes, affecting an individual’s moral judgments, decision-making, and ability to relate to others. This might cause a breakdown of social relationships and an increase in risky or antisocial behaviors.
  8. Suicidal Thoughts: The mental health issues associated with long-term drug abuse, such as depression and anxiety, can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Substance abuse can exacerbate feelings of hopelessness and despair, making suicide seem like a viable option to some.

Do Not Let Drug Addiction Control Your Life

Is drug or alcohol addiction taking over your life or the life of someone close to you? Addiction is a treatable chronic disease. It can affect anyone. Recovery is possible! At Anabranch Recovery Center in Terre Haute, Indiana, our skilled professionals are committed to providing you with the resources, and tools you need to reclaim control of your life. Now is the time to take the first step towards recovery. Contact us today and begin your journey towards a sober life.

About the author

Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.