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The drug affects chemicals and receptors within the brain, causing different effects depending on the type of drug. Your body then metabolises the drug or breaks it down into simpler molecules (known as metabolites) which can be more easily eliminated. Sometimes these metabolites can also affect your body.
What is Drug Abuse?
Clinically known as substance use disorder, drug abuse or addiction is caused by the habitual taking of addictive substances. Drugs include alcohol, marijuana, hallucinogens and opioids. Substance use disorder is a disease, causing people to compulsively use drugs despite consequences
Effects of Drug Abuse and Addiction
Drugs are chemicals that affect the body and brain. Different drugs can have different effects. Some effects of drugs include health consequences that are long-lasting and permanent. They can even continue after a person has stopped taking the substance.
There are a few ways a person can take drugs, including injection, inhalation and ingestion. The effects of the drug on the body can depend on how the drug is delivered. For example, the injection of drugs directly into the bloodstream has an immediate impact, while ingestion has a delayed effect.
But all misused drugs affect the brain. They cause large amounts of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate our emotions, motivation and feelings of pleasure, to flood the brain and produce a “high.” Eventually, drugs can change how the brain works and interfere with a person’s ability to make choices, leading to intense cravings and compulsive drug use. Over time, this behavior can turn into a substance dependency, or drug addiction.
Today, more than 7 million people suffer from an illicit drug disorder, and one in four deaths results from illicit drug use. In fact, more deaths, illnesses and disabilities are associated with drug abuse than any other preventable health condition. People suffering from drug and alcohol addiction also have a higher risk of unintentional injuries, accidents and domestic violence incidents.
The good news is: Substance use disorders are treatable.
The Effects of Drug Abuse on Health
Substance use disorders are associated with a wide range of short- and long-term health effects. They can vary depending on the type of drug, how much and how often it’s taken and the person’s general health. Overall, the effects of drug abuse and dependence can be far-reaching. They can impact almost every organ in the human body.
Side effects of drug addiction may include:
- A weakened immune system, increasing the risk of illness and infection
- Heart conditions ranging from abnormal heart rates to heart attacks and collapsed veins and blood vessel infections from injected drugs
- Nausea and abdominal pain, which can also lead to changes in appetite and weight loss
- Increased strain on the liver, which puts the person at risk of significant liver damage or liver failure
- Seizures, stroke, mental confusion and brain damage
- Lung disease
- Problems with memory, attention and decision-making, which make daily living more difficult
- Global effects of drugs on the body, such as breast development in men and increases in body temperature, which can lead to other health problems
The most severe health consequences of drug abuse is death. Deaths related to synthetic opioids and heroin have seen the sharpest rise. In the past 12 months, 212,000 people aged 12 or older have used heroin for the first time. Every day, more than 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids.
Effects of Drug Addiction on the Brain
All drugs–nicotine, cocaine, marijuana and others–affect the brain’s “reward” circuit, which is part of the limbic system. This area of the brain affects instinct and mood. Drugs target this system, which causes large amounts of dopamine—a brain chemical that helps regulate emotions and feelings of pleasure—to flood the brain. This flood of dopamine is what causes a “high.” It’s one of the main causes of drug addiction.
Drug addiction can have a number of negative effects on the brain. These effects can vary depending on the type of drug being used and the duration of use.
Some common effects of drug addiction on the brain include:
- Changes in brain structure and function: Chronic drug use can lead to changes in the brain’s structure and function, which can affect behavior and cognition.
- Impairment of decision-making and judgment: Many drugs of abuse can impair judgment and decision-making, increasing the risk of accidents, injuries, and risky behaviors.
- Alteration of mood and emotions: Many drugs of abuse can alter mood and emotions, leading to feelings of euphoria or depression.
- Disruption of learning and memory: Drug use can interfere with the ability to learn and remember new information, which can have long-term consequences on cognitive function.
- Addiction: Repeated drug use can lead to the development of an addiction, which is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and use despite negative consequences.
It is important to note that the effects of drug addiction on the brain can be reversed with treatment and sustained recovery. However, the longer an addiction goes untreated, the more severe and difficult to reverse the effects may become.
Drug Effects on Behavior
Substance use disorders can lead to multiple behavioral problems, both in the short- and long-term, which can include:
- Impaired Judgment
- Loss of Self-Control
These effects of drug abuse have serious consequences, like missed work, punishable offenses, accidents and injuries. In fact, alcohol and drugs are partly to blame in an estimated 80 percent of offenses leading to jail time in the U.S. These incidents include domestic violence, driving while intoxicated and offenses related to damaged property. Legal and illegal drugs excluding alcohol are involved in about 16 percent of motor vehicle crashes. In the past year, almost 12 million people drove under the influence of illicit drugs, and almost 4,000 fatally injured drivers tested positive for drug involvement.
Effects of Drug Abuse on Unborn Babies
The use of drugs during pregnancy can have a number of negative effects on an unborn baby. Many drugs, including prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, and illegal drugs, can pass from the mother to the baby through the placenta. This can cause a range of problems for the baby, including premature birth, birth defects, and other problems.
Some specific effects of drug abuse on unborn babies include:
- Alcohol: Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a range of problems for the baby, including fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Babies with FAS may have problems with their growth, facial features, and central nervous system. They may also have problems with learning, memory, and behavior.
- Tobacco: Smoking tobacco during pregnancy can increase the risk of premature birth, low birth weight, and stillbirth. It can also increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Opioids: Using opioids, such as heroin and prescription painkillers, during pregnancy can cause the baby to be born addicted to the drug. This can lead to serious problems, including withdrawal symptoms, breathing problems, and feeding problems.
- Cocaine: Using cocaine during pregnancy can cause premature birth, low birth weight, and other problems. It can also increase the risk of placental abruption, which is when the placenta separates from the uterus before delivery.
It’s important for pregnant women to avoid using drugs and to seek help if they are struggling with drug addiction. Treatment can help prevent the negative effects of drug abuse on unborn babies.
Quitting smoking has numerous benefits for your health. Here are just a few:
- Improved cardiovascular health: Quitting smoking can improve your blood pressure and heart rate, reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Better respiratory health: Smoking damages the lungs and can cause chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Quitting smoking can help improve your breathing and reduce your risk of developing these conditions.
- Longer lifespan: Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease worldwide. Quitting smoking can add years to your life.
- Reduced cancer risk: Smoking is a major cause of cancer, including lung, throat, and bladder cancer. Quitting smoking can significantly reduce your risk of developing these cancers.
- Improved fertility: Smoking can reduce fertility in both men and women. Quitting smoking can improve your chances of having a baby.
Better oral health: Smoking can cause bad breath and yellowed teeth, and it can increase your risk of gum disease and oral cancer. Quitting smoking can improve the health of your mouth and teeth.
Effect of Alcohol to our health
Alcohol can have both positive and negative effects on health.
In moderate amounts, alcohol can potentially have some health benefits, such as:
- Reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke
- Decreasing the risk of developing gallstones
- Potentially reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
However, it is important to note that these potential benefits are seen only with moderate alcohol consumption, defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
Heavy alcohol consumption can have many negative effects on health, including:
- Increasing the risk of developing high blood pressure, liver disease, and certain cancers
- Damaging the brain and increasing the risk of stroke
- Increasing the risk of developing mental health problems such as depression and anxiety
- Interfering with medications and medical conditions
It is also important to note that alcohol can impair judgment and coordination, which can increase the risk of accidents and injuries.
In summary, alcohol can have both positive and negative effects on health, and it is important to consume alcohol in moderation, if at all.