The Effects of Drug Use and Addiction
Alcohol and other drugs have the ability to completely devastate a person's physical, mental, social, and spiritual health. Various substances create their own list of short-term and long-term effects.
Common effects of drug use include:
- Mood changes. Most substances boost someone's mood in the short-term to create intense happiness. After these effects wear off, the person may appear grumpy, irritable, or depressed.
- Energy changes. Stimulant substances like cocaine and medications for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) work to speed up the body, increase heart rate and blood pressure, and boost energy. Sedatives, opioids, and alcohol usually have the opposite effect and make people relaxed and sleepy.
- Perceptual changes. Some substances are capable of producing strong perceptual changes that lead to the person seeing things, hearing things, or feeling things that are not present.
A person using substances may:
- Shift their social interactions by spending time with new people or completely isolating themselves
- Change their sleeping schedule and receive much more or much less sleep
- Look different with changes in their weight, skin, teeth, eyes, or self-care
- Complain of frequent physical health problems to explain their state
- Lie, cheat, and steal to continue substance use and avoid being detected by others
Prolonged drug abuse always concludes with a multitude of physical and mental health complaints. With enough time, substance use can create irreversible damage to the:
The Challenges of Ending Substance Use
People start using alcohol and other drugs for a variety of reasons, but there is one main culprit that keeps people compulsively using drugs – withdrawal symptoms. For some substances, withdrawal symptoms are very distressing and very dangerous.
The brain changes linked to tolerance and dependence create a new brain that requires the substance to feel well and function normally. When substance use ends, the imbalance of the new normal causes the brain to be overwhelmed and unable to counteract certain brain chemicals.
As the substance begins to leave the body, the withdrawal symptoms will emerge. Usually, the withdrawal symptoms are the opposite of the signs of intoxication, so if a drug creates a lot of energy and focus, the person will feel lethargic and scattered.
Since intoxication makes people feel happy, withdrawal symptoms always make the person feel depressed, anxious, or irritable. Many people continue substance use as a way to avoid feeling these ways and as a way to control the strong cravings that emerge along with withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal from alcohol, sedatives, and opioids is especially dangerous. These substances can trigger a complex and harmful impact on the body.
Alcohol and sedatives can create deadly seizures during withdrawal. Opioids spark multiple health risks, including heart issues, the risk for pneumonia, and dehydration.
The Need for Specialized Treatment
Drug addiction requires specialized treatment to ensure the needed level of safety and effectiveness a person deserves. Unfortunately, some people attempt to detox from alcohol and other drugs without the guidance of medical or addiction professionals. When this happens, the person increases the risk of poor outcomes like:
- Serious mental health complications
- Serious physical health complications
For people willing to seek it, professional addiction treatment is widely available. Most insurance plans cover all levels of addiction treatment, and in some situations, even people without insurance can receive treatment at low or no cost.
The best treatments match the needs of the individual. Some people will need very intense inpatient or residential care early in treatment while others can receive lower levels of care and still benefit.
Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment
Inpatient and residential treatments are ideal for people with powerful addictions, complicated mental health issues, limited supports, and a prior history of relapse. These treatments involve the person living at the facility throughout treatment. They will receive two-hour care from a team of professionals to limit withdrawal and establish a period of recovery.
Outpatient treatments allow the person to come to the facility for treatment at scheduled intervals before returning to home or work. This treatment setting is a good fit for people with more straightforward addictions, plenty of family supports, and fewer mental or medical complications.
No matter the setting or stage of treatment, medical intervention can be helpful in addiction treatment. Medications can address:
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Cravings for more drugs
- Underlying mental health issues that encourage use
For people going through substance use treatment, as well as their loved ones, it is essential to remember that the addiction recovery process is a long one. Many view the path to recovery as one that takes a lifetime. There is no end to addiction treatment.
Along the same lines, relapse is a part of recovery. Relapse does not mean that treatment is ineffective or that the person cannot be helped. It only means that a renewed devotion to treatment is needed to reestablish and maintain recovery.