Addiction or substance abuse disorder is a complicated illness. There is the uncontrolled use of a dangerous drug despite detrimental consequences. Millions of people use drugs, including marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy. They think it is an easy way to relax after a stressful day at work. However, with time they end up getting addicted to the substance. These drugs are not only illegal, but they are dangerous because of their unpredictable effect on people.
People may abuse legal drugs as well. For example, millions of Americans abuse prescription medications. While these drugs are legal for people above a certain age, patients must use them as prescribed by their doctor. Using them in any other way is drug abuse, and it ends in addiction.
Thousands of people around us are fighting a daily battle with their addiction. Your friend, significant other, or even your child may be going through something similar. Fortunately, some symptoms of drug addiction can help you identify people going through a rough patch.
Signs of substance abuse:
People with addictions or substance abuse disorders have distorted behavior. They engage in risk-taking behavior because of changes in their brain chemistry. But, every person with substance abuse does not have the same symptoms. So, if someone close to you shows ten out of fourteen signs, you should get help from different institutes or rehab centers for in-patient or outpatient care.
- Changes in appearance, like sudden weight loss or gain
- Changes in behavior and sudden mood swings
- Periods of hyperactivity
- Missing important obligations
- Unusual smells on body, breath, or clothes
- Acting out of character
- Showing a lack of energy
- Becoming defensive about their behavior
- Uncontrollable urges
- Bloodshot eyes and abnormal size of pupils
- Tremors and impaired coordination
- Slurred speech
- Legal problems
- Unexplained financial problems
Drugs also have some short-term health outcomes. But, each drug has a unique effect on your body. For example, marijuana causes a lack of coordination and judgment. Comparatively, cocaine increases blood pressure and body temperature.
Most patients find maintaining healthy relationships challenging. Therefore, they end up alienating their loved ones. And usually, addiction ends in chronic long-term health conditions. Different organs process harmful substances in your body. Therefore, they cause widespread damage to our bodies.
Breastfeeding or pregnant mothers can cause withdrawal in babies because of substance abuse. The baby may experience tremors, seizures, and difficulties sleeping. Some babies develop developmental problems.
Following are the health conditions that doctors associate with substance abuse.
- Infections: Some drugs, like heroin and cocaine, increase the risk of infections when patients inject them into their bodies. Sharing equipment and unsafe practices can also make people more vulnerable to liver disease and transmit HIV. Dirty needles may also carry a risk of bacterial infections—substances like alcohol and narcotics lower inhibitions. Thus people are more likely to take sexual risks and contract STIs. Other drugs reduce immune response as they inhibit the ability to create white blood cells.
- Cardiovascular Issues: Stimulants increase the heart rate, and depressants slow it down. An abnormal heart rate can increase the risk of a heart attack. Many users die of overdose-associated cardiac arrest because of stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamines. Furthermore, bacterial diseases because of injection use can also increase the risk of collapsed veins. Users can also expose themselves to bloodborne infections, which may affect the heart.
- Gastrointestinal Issues: Orally ingested drugs can harm the digestive system. Opioids cause chronic constipation, indigestion, vomiting, or nausea. Substance-related vomiting damages the esophagus. So, users may become malnourished. Patients may develop complications because of substance abuse. For example, methamphetamine use causes internal bleeding and eventually in bowel tissue death.
- Respiratory Issues: Smoking is injurious to health. Smoke damages the alveoli and the upper respiratory system. It also increases the risk of pleural infections. Some depressants can affect breathing, making it shallow or irregular. So, when a user overdoses on opioids, they may develop hypoxia. Their body may become starved of oxygen, ending in a gruesome death.
- Cancers: Smoking increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, lungs, or neck. Furthermore, secondhand smoke can also increase the possibility of lung cancer and other issues. According to research, marijuana use also significantly increases the risk of developing an aggressive type of cancer. Tobacco and steroids also contribute to cancer.
- Liver Damage: The liver is the detoxification organ of your body. Therefore, when users consistently use certain drugs, the liver has to detoxify their blood. The high toxicity levels may overwhelm the liver and break down the tissues of the organ. Spirits are the most dangerous substances for the liver because abuse results in a spectrum of liver disease. Patients may develop liver cirrhosis, which increases the risk of liver cancer.
- Kidney Damage: The kidney also plays a fundamental role in detoxification. Therefore, large amounts of dangerous substances in the body can have a detrimental effect on our kidneys. Additives and impurities in street drugs can clog the vessels that supply blood to the kidneys. They can damage the organs and cause kidney failure.
- Neurological Issues: The brains of people with a long history of substance abuse adapts to the situation. Therefore, brain chemistry also changes. So, the user depends on the substance to function. Substance abuse changes how our brain works. It affects the reward/pleasure, decision making, and impulse control areas of our brain function.
- Mental Health Effects: Long-lasting use of drugs results in mental health issues. Users may experience paranoia, depression, or hallucinations. Sometimes, mental disorders like schizophrenia trigger drug use. Cocaine, ketamine, and inhalants also contribute to mental health issues. Substance abuse and mental health issues often coexist. More than 8.1 million people have substance use disorders and mental illnesses.
- Death: An overdose is how your body responds when there is too much substance in the bloodstream. Overdoses are usually fatal, but doctors can save users with quick medical treatment. While the body may have a unique response to substances, often, patients die because of respiratory failure. More than 841,000 people have died of an overdose in the past 20 years. As the opioid epidemic gathers steam, these numbers are going to rise.
Addiction opens a pandora’s box of health problems, from mental health issues to cancer. Fortunately, substance abuse is treatable. However, treatment for substance abuse requires participation from the user. It can also help patients counteract disruptions in their lives. The road to recovery is long, with several setbacks. So, relapses or return to drug use is a part of the process. An effective treatment plan can help patients overcome substance abuse and start a new life. A mix of behavioral therapies and medication can help patients stop substance abuse.