Until recently, drug addiction was seen almost as a choice. However, scientists now understand that the chemical changes which occur in the body after addiction are more similar to that of a disease. ¹ These changes can have both short-term and long-term health complications. With that, the impact of drug addiction on emotional and physical spheres is huge.
Throughout this article, we’re going to explore the effects of drug addiction and from there, discuss how you can overcome it. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
Effects of Drug Addiction
The effects of drug addiction vary depending on a number of factors, including how you take the drug (injection, inhalation, ingestion, etc.) to what your drug of choice is (opioids, stimulants, antidepressants, etc.). Still, most drugs have a similar effect in the brain.
Most notably, they’ll cause an influx of dopamine – a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for our emotions, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. ² It’s this large amount of dopamine that usually causes a “high” people struggling with addiction feel.
Over time, the brain becomes accustomed to this overstimulation of dopamine and, without a particular drug, will cause addictive tendencies (i.e. cravings, compulsions, etc.). ³
It’s estimated that there are 7 million people in the U.S. struggling with a substance abuse disorder. 1 in 4 of all deaths can be attributed to illicit drug use. Furthermore, drug abuse leads to a number of illnessess and disabilities that can normally be prevented.
On Physical Health
The impact of drug addiction on physical health can be both short- and long-term. While these effects differ depending on the drug, use of any drug is likely to take some kind of toll on your health. More particularly, your organs and their ability to perform.
Some of the most notable effects drugs have on physical health include: ⁴
- Abdominal pains and nausea (may lead to appetite and weight changes)
- Brain damage, mental confusion, stroke, seizures
- Heart conditions (such as increased risk of heart attack or abnormal heart rates)
- Increase in body temperature
- Liver problems
- Lung disease
- Weakened immune system (leading to risks of infection and illness)
Beyond unwanted health complications, certain substances can cause an overdose that may lead to death. One study found that within a 12-month period, 212,000 people aged 12 or older tried heroin for the first time. Within that timeframe, 90 Americans died daily due to opioid overdoses. ⁵
On Emotional Health
While various drugs impact the brain differently, all drugs have an affect on the “reward” circuit. As part of the limbic system, this area of the brain is responsible for instinct and mood. Most notably, drugs will flood the brain with dopamine – a neurotransmitter responsible for emotional regulation and feelings of pleasure.
When someone first tries a substance, the act is likely voluntary. However, over time, the drug will change brain chemistry – more specifically, how the brain performs and interacts with a person’s ability to make decisions. ⁶
Due to the influx of dopamine, the brain becomes accustomed to this level of “reward.” In turn, without the drug, the brain has trouble reproducing an adequate level of dopamine. This will lead to various characteristics of drug addiction, such as intense cravings and compulsive behaviors.
The impact of drug addiction on emotional health varies greatly from drug to drug. For example:
- Alcohol will disrupt brain communication and influence mood, behavior, and other cognitive functions. ⁷
- Cocaine effects the way we handle stress and stress-related disorders can cause relapse. ⁸
- Long-term cannabis use has been found to cause problems with memory and learning tasks. ⁹
- Opioids directly attach to opioid receptors in the brain and inhibit the body’s ability to produce endogenous opioids (which are responsible for pleasure and pain relief).
To get a better idea how a particular substance is affecting your emotional health, we highly recommend doing some research in terms of that substance.
On Behavioral Health
Since drug addiction affects our emotions, it’s likely to directly impact our behavioral health as well. Some common traits in those struggling with addiction include: ¹⁰
- Dependence on substance
- Impaired judgment
- Loss of self-control
If you struggle with behavioral health, this is likely to effect your day-to-day life. For example, you may find yourself missing work or other responsibilities more frequently.
However, the most concerning aspect of drug abuse on behavioral health is the fact that it can lead to life-threatening conduct. This includes domestic violence, driving while intoxicated, and damage to property.
It’s estimated that 80% of all crimes in the U.S. are committed while under the influence. Furthermore, 16% of motor vehicle crashes are directly linked to drug use not including alcohol.
On Unborn Babies
If you are pregnant, use of drugs can have a very harmful effect on your unborn child, such as a premature birth or a low birth rate. Furthermore, pregnant women who use drugs are more likely to participate in risky behaviors and take less care of their body which may cause other harms to your child. ¹¹
Women in such circumstances should be cautious. While it may seem like quitting drug use is the best option, sudden quitting could lead to serious withdrawal symptoms which can have further negative effects. For this reason, it’s vital to speak to a doctor if you struggle with addiction and are pregnant.
While the impact of drug addiction on emotional and physical spheres can be fatal, it is possible to overcome addiction. There are a number of treatment facilities across the country, each of which provides you with the steps required to beat substances abuse for good. If you’re interested in such, we highly recommend seeking one out in your area.
When seeking out the right treatment facility, it’s important to avoid any that advertise a “one-size-fits-all” motto. Overcoming drug addiction is a very personal endeavor and everyone’s situation is different.
Still have questions about the impact of drug addiction on emotional and physical spheres?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction
² National Institutes of Health (NIH): Dopamine affects how brain decides whether a goal is worth the effort
³ National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Dopamine Neurons Signal Rich Information About Unexpected Events
⁴ Better Health Channel: How drugs affect your body
⁵ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA): Find Help: ATOD
⁶ National Institutes of Health (NIH): News in Health: Biology of Addiction
⁷ National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Alcohol’s Effects on the Body
⁸ National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): What are some ways that cocaine changes the brain?
⁹ National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): What are marijuana’s long-term effects on the brain?
¹⁰ MedlinePlus: Drug Use and Addiction
¹¹ National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Substance Use While Pregnant and Breastfeeding