When we talk about addiction, the first thing that comes in mind are drugs and alcohol. However, addiction is not limited to these substances alone. Understand that, addiction is a disease that affects your behavior and overall health of certain parts of the brain and the body. When you are addicted, you can’t resist the urge to use drugs or alcohol no matter how much damage it can do to your body.
Now drugs and alcohol are not the only substances a person can be addicted to. You can also get addicted to nicotine, painkillers, and other legal substances. Taking drugs for the first time might make you feel good but over time, this will change the chemicals in your brain. So, the longer you are addicted to these substances, the more unable you are to stop yourself from using. This can eventually lead to more physical damages and behavioral changes. So how does addiction affects your health? Here’s what you need to know.
Difference Between Abuse and Addiction
Drug abuse is using legal or illegal substances/drugs in ways that you shouldn’t do. This could be taking medication pills that are not for you or from some else’s drug prescription. Abusing drugs may help ease stress, makes you feel good, and even avoid reality but the difference with substance abuse from addiction is that, with substance abuse, you can choose to change your unhealthy habits. You can also choose to stop using these drugs and stay away from it.
Addiction, on the other hand, is when you simply cannot stop using a substance. This can put your health in danger if the addiction lingers on for a long time. Addiction can take a toll on your finances, physical and mental health, as well as your relationships with your loved ones. The urge only gets stronger every second even if you wish to quit, so you only end up using more drugs and alcohol in the long run.
The Effects on Your General Health
There are a wide range of long-term and short-term health effects associated with substance use disorders. Effects may also vary depending on the type of drug abused, how often it is taken, and how much is used by the individual. The person’s general health can also affect the effects of drug use. This is also because substances play a role in every organ in the body. Here are some of the side effects of drug addiction:
- Heart conditions can occur ranging from abnormal heart rates, collapsed veins, blood vessel infections, and even heart attacks.
- Immune system is weakened and can increase the person’s risk of getting infections and develop illnesses.
- Can cause abdominal pain, nausea, changes in appetite and eventually weight loss.
- Seizures, mental confusion, stroke, and brain damage.
- Strain is increased on the liver which can lead to liver failure and damage.
- Lung problems and other respiratory problems are also very common.
- Memory loss, problems with attention and decision making makes living more difficult.
Drug addiction can also increase your risk of contracting infections. The percentage of contracting Hepatitis C, HIV or Human Immunodeficiency virus, and other types of infection are high – this is usually caused by the sharing of infected needles and engaging in risky behaviors like unsafe sexual activities. Skin infections, as well as infections in the heart valves, can also occur when the person is exposed to bacteria through injecting drugs into their system.
Effects on Your Brain
All kinds of drugs can affect the brain’s reward center, which is part of the limbic system. This is also the area that controls the mood and instinct of a person. When a person is addicted to drugs, these substances cause the brain to produce a large amount of dopamine. Dopamine is a brain chemical that helps regulate the feelings of pleasure and other emotions to flood the brain when a person feels good. When the brain is “flooded” with dopamine, the individual will feel the “high” and this feeling is usually the end result of using drugs. It is because of this euphoric feeling that many people become addicted to drugs in the first place.
Initially, these changes in the brain’s chemistry may be voluntary but it can change how a person performs and even their ability to make decisions. When drugs are used over time, intense cravings and compulsive drug use can develop. In the end, the person will develop a dependency, and can no longer function normally without taking drugs or alcohol in some cases.
Alcohol also has different effects on the brain. For one, alcohol disrupts the brain’s communication pathways. When this happens, the person’s mood, cognitive function, and behavior change. Alcohol-induced nutrition deficiencies and brain damage can also be caused by alcohol. Not only that, but it can also cause seizures, liver failure, and damage if abused for a long period.
Pregnant women who are exposed to alcohol can also damage the developing brain of unborn babies. It can also result in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. However, unlike drugs, alcohol-induced brain problems can be corrected if given proper treatment. Quitting alcohol for months or years can also help repair an individual’s cognitive abilities and even help restore their memory skills.
Effects of Addiction on Behavior
It has been proven that addiction or substance use disorder can lead to a myriad of behavioral problems which can be both have long-term and short-term effects. These may include:
- Impaired Judgement
- Loss of self-control
Missing work, being involved in injuries and accidents are also among the consequences of drug abuse. Alcohol and drugs are also to be blamed for almost 80% of the offenses done by Americans according to research studies. These offenses include:
- Domestic violence
- Driving under the influence
- Damage to properties related to drug or alcohol abuse
- Vehicular accidents
In some cases, drug use and mental illness often co-exist. Mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia may have developed before the addiction but in some cases, these can be triggered by drug use and even worsen these conditions.
People with underlying disorders like anxiety and depression may use drugs as a means to cope with the symptoms but it can deteriorate their disorders in the long run and even put them at risk for developing an addiction. This is also the reason why proper treatment is needed to correct both drug abuse and mental health disorders.
If you have been using drugs and felt like you are getting out of control, seek treatment immediately. Talk to your doctor and see what treatment options are there for you. Recovering from drug addiction can take time and there is no exact cure. However, therapies and medications can help you stop using and be drug-free. So make sure to talk to your doctor so you can figure out which is the best treatment plan for you.
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