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How has Substance Abuse Been Affecting People?

Substance use disorder can lead to short- and long-term negative health effects. These effects can be physical and mental and can range from moderate to severe.

What are the Drugs Abused?

Generally, substance use disorder (SUD), or drug misuse refers to the use of psychoactive drugs, which are substances that affect the brain. The effects on the body depend on several factors, such as the type of substance a person uses, the dosages and frequency of use, and the individual’s health history. These elements are all taken into account when the patient’s addiction treatment program is developed.

Examples of common psychoactive drugs include:

  • alcohol
  • cannabis
  • cocaine
  • heroin
  • inhalants
  • prescription opioids
  • stimulants
  • meth

This article discusses the physical and mental effects of substance use disorder.

Physical Effects of Drug Abuse

Psychoactive drugs are chemical compounds that affect the mind and body.

Taking different drugs may cause:

  • changes in coordination
  • blood pressure and heart rate changes
  • feelings of being more awake or more sleepy
  • improved sociability
  • pain relief
  • changes in the appearance of a person’s body

When chronic substance use occurs over a long period, these short-term physical effects may cause long-term changes to a person’s brain and body.

The specific physical effects of substance use may vary among individuals and depend on the substance, dosage, delivery method, and length of use.

Substance use can sometimes lead to serious health consequences, including overdose and death.

Short-term Physical Effects

Using any drug can cause short-term physical effects. The following are examples of the short-term physical effects. It should be noted that some substances can pose significant health risks even when used only once.

  • deficits in coordination
  • a quickened heartbeat
  • reddening of the skin or face
  • dizziness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • potential cold shock
  • coma

reddening of the skin or face

Long-term Physical Effects

Using substances for an extended time may have long-term health consequences. These lasting effects depend on multiple factors, including the substance, the amount, and how long a person has used it. Many of these long-term effects can be halted, or even reversed, if the individual achieves and maintains lasting sobriety. This highlights the fact that it is never too late to seek help for an addiction.

Examples of common potential long-term physical effects of addiction include:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • liver disease and inflammation
  • pancreatitis
  • digestive problems
  • cancer of breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum
  • weakened immune system
  • substance use disorder or drug dependence

Mental Effects

Long-term substance abuse may affect a person’s memory, behaviour, learning, consciousness, and concentration.

Substances like alcohol, cannabis, stimulants, and opioids are psychoactive drugs that can change an individual’s brain function and structure after chronic use. This can result in cognitive and behavioural changes and deficits that may remain even after someone stops using.

The mental and cognitive effects of addiction vary widely from person to person, depending on the type of drug, the duration of use, and whether there are any concurrent mental or cognitive conditions.

Addiction may worsen the symptoms of other mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. In addition, drug use during adolescence is a strong risk factor for the later development of substance use disorders. It may also be a risk factor for developing other mental illnesses.

For example, frequent cannabis use in adolescents can increase the risk of psychosis in adulthood in individuals who carry a particular gene variant.

mental effects

Short-term Mental Effects

Examples of short-term mental effects of substance abuse include:

  • irritability and anxiety upon withdrawal
  • feelings of depression
  • easing of social interactions
  • enhanced sensory perception
  • feelings of euphoria and relaxation
  • anxiety
  • an overinflated sense of confidence

Long-term Mental Effects

Examples of common mental effects associated with long-term addiction include:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • learning and memory problems
  • social problems
  • increased risk of overdose
  • confusion
  • insomnia
  • mood problems
  • violent or aggressive behaviour
  • increased tendency to behave recklessly in spite of the risks
  • paranoia
  • hallucinations

Risk Factors for Addiction

Certain factors may increase an individual’s risk for addiction. These include:

  • family history of substance use, due to either genetics or modelled behaviour
  • difficulties with parental monitoring
  • family rejection of sexual orientation or gender identity
  • association with substance-using peers
  • lack of school connectedness
  • academic achievement difficulties
  • childhood sexual abuse
  • mental health issues
  • trauma that is either witnessed or experienced

Some addictions start with legitimate use of prescription medication. If the condition for which the medication was prescribed is not improving, the individual may be at increased risk of becoming addicted to the medication.

childhood sexual abuse

How to Get Help

Finding the right addiction treatment program may feel overwhelming. Here are a few things a person can consider when seeking recovery for substance use disorder.

  • Addiction treatment programs are customized to the needs and challenges of the individual
  • There is a range of treatment options available for people of all income levels
  • There are resources available that can help match you with the right addiction treatment program

At Intervention Rehab, our goal is to take as much stress as possible away from the families of people with addictions. Our intervention professionals can guide you through the process of helping your loved one understand how their addiction is impacting the people around them. We have connections with treatment programs that can set your loved one on the path to recovery. Contact us for more information.

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