Health Consequences of Drug Abuse
Article written by Chloe Nicosia
“Drug abuse” is a general term that involves the misuse of any type of drug, including prescriptions and illicit drugs. Drug abuse also includes the misuse of alcohol. Abusing drugs can lead to dependence and addiction, which have many short- and long-term ramifications physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Understanding drug abuse is important for everyone for several reasons. Knowing about drug abuse helps people avoid it personally as well as know what to look for in other people’s behaviors. When a drug abuse issue occurs, people can seek treatment through a rehabilitation facility. Both inpatient and outpatient rehab treatment are available.
What Is Drug Addiction?
Someone who is addicted to a drug experiences compulsive and overwhelming desires to use the specific drug. In the beginning of drug use, people use a substance voluntarily. However, with repeated use, the brain undergoes changes that affect a person’s ability to resist using the drug. When addictive drugs enter the body, they have a direct and nearly instantaneous effect on circuitry in the brain due to an increase in dopamine levels. The brain responds to these unnatural levels by reducing dopamine receptors and increasing dopamine transporters. Over time, as the brain becomes accustomed to these altered responses, some hard-wiring occurs. This means that more permanent connections are formed that cause physiological and emotional changes. Emotional changes often result in personality and mood shifts. Physiological changes include differences in judgment, memory, and learning. The brain also responds by building a tolerance to the chemicals, which requires an addicted person to use more to achieve the desired effects.
- DrugFacts: Understanding Drug Use and Addiction
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Signs and Symptoms
Someone struggling with drug addiction often displays typical signs and symptoms of the problem. Physical signs of drug abuse include changes in sleep and eating patterns, weight loss or gain, a deterioration in physical appearance, impaired coordination, runny nose, and bloodshot eyes. Common behavioral changes include secretive behavior, neglect of responsibilities, spending time with different friends, and an unexplained need for money or spending money in unexplained ways. Someone experiencing drug addiction may also show paranoid behavior, listlessness, and mood swings.
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Short-Term Effects of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Abusing drugs has a number of short-term effects. Misusing drugs often causes people to feel unwell. This hangover may lead to academic or work issues due to missing classes or shifts. People may also experience problems due to the lack of judgment that is common with drug abuse. Engaging in unprotected sexual activity can lead to illness and unwanted pregnancy. Weight gain can be an undesired short-term effect as well. Drug users may also struggle with legal problems such as driving under the influence and other issues with the law.
- The Science of Addiction (PDF)
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- Consequences of Youth Substance Abuse
- Get it Straight: Facts About Drugs (PDF)
- Drug Abuse and Overdose (PDF)
Long-Term Effects of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Over time, drug abuse can cause many different long-term issues. People struggling with drug abuse will need to begin using more drugs to experience the same effect. This tolerance also results in less pleasure over a period of time. Long-term results of addiction also cause serious issues with behavior, memory, decision-making, and judgment. Students struggling with drug abuse usually begin experiencing learning issues, and they are unable to keep up with academic programs. Long-term physical issues can include cardiovascular disease, types of cancer such as cancer of the pancreas and lungs, stroke, and permanent issues with the nervous system. When drug abuse leads to serious problems, it’s possible to begin a treatment program that will assist with rehabilitation and sober living. Recovery is not easy, but with time and effort, it is possible.
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