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Drug abuse: the physical and mental effects of drug abuse

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Drug abuse: the physical and mental effects of drug abuse

The physical and mental effects of drug abuse refer to the adverse consequences that can manifest physically and mentally as a result of substance use involving drugs.

The consequences of drug abuse on one’s health can be severe and potentially fatal, and may be short-term or long-term. Short-term effects may include dizziness, slurred speech, shallow breathing, increased heart rate and blood pressure, problems with movement, altered mood, anxiety, panic attacks, or paranoia, difficulty concentrating, withdrawal symptoms, impaired judgment, irritability, aggression, appetite changes, sleep impairment and memory issues.

The long-term effects of drug abuse are cardiovascular problems, lung problems, liver damage, renal damage, gastrointestinal problems, sexual dysfunction, neurological abnormalities and an increased risk of drug addiction.

It also raises the possibility of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, psychosis, and cognitive decline developing or getting worse. Mental health issues caused by drugs may necessitate continuing treatment.

What is drug abuse?

Drug abuse is the use of illegal drugs, prescription pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter medications, or both, in excess, or for purposes other than those for which they were designed, according to the National Cancer Institute’s Dictionary of Cancer Terms.

The harmful use of drugs may affect an individual’s brain and behavior, resulting in issues with many areas of life, including daily functioning, personal relationships, health, emotions, school, and employment.

What are the physical effects of drug abuse?

The physical effects of drug abuse are symptoms of drug misuse that manifest physically. The physical effects of drug abuse are listed below.

  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Abnormal breathing or respiratory depression
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Muscle weakness or tremors
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Sexual dysfunction or reproductive damage
  • Skin problems
  • Organ damage

1. Changes in appetite and weight

A person holding the button on his pants

Changes in appetite and weight refer to changes in one’s desire to eat food and their body mass. Problematic drug use can hijack the brain, affecting an individual’s metabolism and changing their priorities into solely focusing on using drugs and foregoing eating.

Drug abuse can cause unhealthy eating behaviors by changing how the body burns and stores fat. Scientists are unsure about why this happens, but a study entitled, “The skinny on cocaine: Insights into eating behavior and body weight in cocaine-dependent men” published in the 2013 issue of the journal Appetite found that even though regular cocaine users ate a lot of fatty foods and carbs, they did not gain a lot of weight, as is usually the case when eating this way.

Appetite and weight changes may last until a person engages in substance abuse, but they may gain weight once they stop and enter recovery.

2. Insomnia or excessive sleeping

Sleep problems such as insomnia or excessive sleeping are the disruptive effects of drug addiction on someone’s sleeping pattern. While some drugs may disturb the duration and decrease the quality of sleep of a person, others may increase sleepiness.

Drugs can have this effect by altering the neurochemical functioning of the brain and subsequently disrupting its sleep regulatory systems. This directly impacts an individual’s biological clock, which is responsible for the sleep/wake cycle.

A study on sleep disturbance in substance use disorders by Timothy A. Roehrs and Thomas Roth published in 2015 in the Psychiatric Clinics of North America suggests that sleep and daytime sleepiness/alertness abnormalities can be observed both during active substance use and after termination of use.

3. Increased heart rate and blood pressure

Increased heart rate means that a person’s heart is beating significantly more quickly than usual. This is associated with elevated blood pressure and an increased risk for hypertension.

Illegal drugs can increase one’s heart rate by constricting the arteries which supply blood to the heart, resulting in an elevated blood pressure and a damaged heart muscle.

Drug-induced high blood pressure may improve if the drug of use is stopped, although this is not always the case. In more uncommon situations – and most frequently when levels become critical – high blood pressure may be accompanied by chest pain, headaches, nausea, nosebleeds, and shortness of breath, according to a 2019 article entitled, “Drug-Induced Hypertension” from Vertava Health.

4. Abnormal breathing or respiratory depression

Abnormal breathing is a respiratory rate that may be greater or slower than normal for one’s age. Slow and shallow breaths are a common symptom of respiratory depression, which is a breathing disorder that occurs when the lungs are unable to adequately exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen.

Any damage to the respiratory system may be long-term or permanent, and may lead to health concerns, such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, or respiratory failure. In long-term cocaine users, difficulty breathing and chest pains may persist, according to an article entitled, “The Permanent Effects of Drugs on the Body (Long-Term Impacts)” from the American Addiction Centers.

Problematic drug use can cause breathing problems by inflicting harm to the body’s respiratory system, causing breathing to slow down, and blocking air from entering the lungs. Opioids are the most common culprits of breathing difficulties and respiratory depression, as it can reduce respiratory rate and exacerbate asthma symptoms.

An article with the title, “Drug-Induced Pulmonary Disease” from Penn Medicine states that acute episodes of drug-induced lung problems typically resolve within 48 to 72 hours of discontinuing the medication or substance. It may take longer for chronic problems to improve.

Even if the drug or substance is withdrawn, some drug-induced lung disorders, such as pulmonary fibrosis, may never go away and get worse, which can cause serious lung disease and even death.

5. Gastrointestinal problems

Gastrointestinal problems refer to ailments and illnesses that affect the gastrointestinal tract, which includes organs like the mouth, esophagus, throat, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus.

Substance abuse can have far-reaching effects on the digestive system, and complications may depend on the type of drug used and how it was taken. Long-term usage of certain drugs are linked to a number of cancers, including cancers of the colon, esophagus, rectum, and stomach, as stated by a 2022 article from the American Addiction Centers entitled, “How Drugs & Alcohol Affect the Digestive System.”

Drug abuse can cause gastrointestinal problems like nausea, vomiting, or constipation because these harmful substances are dispersed throughout the whole digestive tract, potentially inflicting damage to any organ involved in digestion.

After a prolonged time of drug abstinence, damage to the digestive system can be repaired, claims a 2016 article entitled, “Is Alcohol or Drug Abuse Taking a Toll on Your Digestion? Published in Psychology Today.

6. Muscle weakness or tremors

Muscle weakness is characterized by a lack of muscle strength that occurs when a full effort does not result in a typical muscular contraction or movement. Tremor, on the other hand, is a neurological condition that produces shaking motions in one or more parts of the body, according to the health information on tremor published in the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Recreational drugs may lead to muscle weakness by affecting the body’s capacity to digest certain minerals, such as calcium, which can impair bone and muscle growth, or the immune system’s capacity to fight diseases. Additionally, a 2012 study on the complex interactions and comorbidities between substances of abuse and movement disorders published in Current Drug Abuse Reviews states that dopamine depletion may occur with chronic use of illicit drugs like cocaine, resulting in lingering rest tremor, which has been described in former chronic cocaine abusers.

Muscle weakness or tremors from substance abuse may still be experienced even after termination of drug use, or until the withdrawal process. However, some effects may go far beyond recovery, as chronic use of illicit drugs can increase one’s chances of having a stroke, which can cause paralysis, weakness, or even muscle function loss in one or more limbs.

7. Seizures or convulsions

A seizure is an uncontrolled, rapid spike in brain activity that can alter consciousness levels, as well as behavior, movement, and feelings, according to a 2023 article entitled, “Seizures” from the Mayo Clinic.

Although seizures and convulsions are two terms that are often used interchangeably. The two are actually different. A convulsion is a type of seizure. During convulsions, a person experiences rapid and rhythmic shaking, during which their muscles repeatedly contract and relax.

A 2015 study by researchers Hsien Yi-Chen, Timothy E. Albertson, and Kent R. Olson published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology suggests that exposure to substances such as illicit drugs can cause a quick start of altered mental status with or without localized or generalized muscular activity (convulsions) paired with epileptic-like brain activity (seizures) as shown on the electroencephalogram (EEG).

Most drug-induced seizures do not have permanent effects and may resolve after a certain amount of time without drug use. However, seizure activity that has been ongoing for an extended period of time can have serious consequences, including irreversible neurological injury, hypotension, pulmonary aspiration, hypoxia, and rhabdomyolysis.

8. Sexual dysfunction or reproductive damage

a woman lying on the floor

Sexual dysfunction refers to persistent, recurring issues with an individual’s sexual response, libido, or orgasm that can make them uncomfortable or put stress on their relationship. Reproductive damage, on the other hand, is when a chemical or substance prevents someone from having a normal, healthy offspring.

Substance use disorder negatively affects sexual function by reducing the production of the male hormone testosterone and female hormone estradiol, leading to reduced sexual desire, infertility, and erectile dysfunction, according to a 2019 study on sexual dysfunction in persons with substance use disorders published in the Journal of Psychosexual Health.

Prolonged substance abuse can have lasting effects on a person’s sexual performance. For instance, an article entitled, “Is There Sex After Recovery?” from Crossroads Centre Antigua states that for the first 6–12 months after stopping substance misuse, having an erection may become more difficult. Fortunately, 50% of male drug addicts with erectile dysfunction get back to “normal” within a year of quitting.

9. Skin problems

Skin problems are conditions that can cause changes on or affect the skin. Sores, inflammation, infections, rashes, and acne or abscesses due to intravenous drug use are the most common substance-abuse related skin problems.

Damages to the skin may result from problematic drug use through a number of factors, including the drug itself, cutting agents used to intensify the effects of the drug, the drug delivery method used (intravenous use), and unhealthy behaviors commonly seen in drug abusers that can cause skin problems, such as poor hygiene habits, poor diet, and lack of sleep.

While scars on the skin may remain during recovery, over time, the skin may regain its natural suppleness, diminishing the appearance of drug-related wrinkles and dark spots. These positive changes are possible because recovery can boost personal hygiene and health care access.

10. Organ damage

Organ damage is defined as the impairment of an internal organ’s structure or function that can result from disease or trauma, according to an article about organ damage from Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C.

Drug abuse can damage all major organs, such as the brain, lungs, heart, liver, or kidneys, by suppressing and reducing their function. These effects can significantly interfere with one’s daily life and put them at a higher risk for other health problems.

The organ damage that results from substance use can cause several chronic conditions, making damages in the major organ systems permanent or long-lasting, especially if left untreated.

What are the mental effects of drug abuse?

The mental effects of drug abuse can significantly impair a person’s social and emotional functioning. The mental effects of drug abuse are listed below.

  • Anxiety, panic attacks, or paranoia
  • Depression or suicidal thoughts
  • Memory loss or cognitive impairment
  • Psychosis or hallucinations
  • Personality changes
  • Poor judgment or decision-making abilities
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Mood swings or emotional instability
  • Increased risk of mental health disorders

1. Anxiety, panic attacks, or paranoia

Anxiety is an emotion marked by feelings of nervousness, fear, and worried thoughts, while a panic attack is a brief period of extremely high anxiety that triggers physical symptoms of fear, including shortness of breath, trembling, muscle tension, and racing heartbeat.

Another one of the consequences of drug abuse is paranoia, which is the unfounded and enduring sense of other people ‘trying to get you’ or that you are the target of their constant, intrusive scrutiny.

Harmful substances such as illegal drugs can cause anxiety and panic attacks by interfering with the normal chemical flow in the brain, resulting in an imbalance of brain chemicals and ultimately leading to anxiety. These alterations in brain chemistry can also bring on paranoid thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Prolonged use of drugs may mean that symptoms of anxiety could last for many months or even years past drug use. However, with the right help and commitment to your treatment plan, full recovery from anxiety, panic attacks, or paranoia is achievable.

2. Depression or suicidal thoughts

Depression, or major depressive disorder, is a common and serious mental health condition that can negatively affect one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. It can also contribute to suicidal thoughts or ideation.

Addictive behaviors around substances like drugs can cause depression or suicidal thoughts by triggering or intensifying the feelings of isolation, worthlessness, or hopelessness that are commonly associated with major depression.

The relationship between drugs and depression also goes both ways. Just as recreational drugs can trigger feelings of loneliness that can develop into depression, having a mental health disorder in the first place can make someone self-medicate with substances of abuse, leading them to develop drug addiction.

Finally, a 2019 article entitled, “Recovery From Depression After Addiction Treatment,” from Anew Era TMS & Psychiatry, one of the post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) that may linger for up to a year following treatment is depression. These long-lasting aftereffects stem from the repeated use of brain-altering substances.

3. Memory loss or cognitive impairment

Memory loss is defined as unusual forgetfulness where one may not be able to remember recent events, recall one or more events in the past, or both, as stated in an article on memory loss by Penn Medicine. Problems with memory are one of the common signs of cognitive impairment, which also includes difficulty concentrating, completing tasks, following instructions, and solving problems.

Excessive and chronic substance use can cause memory loss by changing chemicals in the brain and reducing activity in its important parts, particularly areas that are responsible for transferring memories from short-term to long-term memory.

The effects of cognitive impairment from drug abuse can be long-lasting, as it can make it hard for someone to focus on what’s happening around them, learn new concepts, and improve their skills at work.

In fact, a 2021 systematic meta-review of meta-analyses on the evidence on the acute and residual neurocognitive effects of cannabis use in adolescents and adults published in the journal Addiction found that many of the well-known memory and learning issues, like slowed processing speed and attention problems, may last for weeks.

Verbal learning, memory, and recall were especially affected for longer amounts of time even after the person was no longer high.

4. Psychosis or hallucinations

Psychosis is when people lose touch with reality and may involve hallucinations, which are sensory experiences that make someone see, hear, smell, taste, or feel things that are actually just in their heads.

Extended periods of drug use can cause psychosis or hallucinations by altering the brain’s drug receptors, neurotransmitters, and neuroanatomy. This form of psychosis can make the affected individual fear social gatherings due to the possibility of experiencing hallucinations in public.

As one of the most common drug abuse effects, the manifestations of long-term drug-induced psychosis may continue for months or even years after the user has ceased using the substance.

5. Personality changes

Personality changes are changes in someone’s thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that may be noticeable to people close to them. While gradual changes in personality are normal as we age, unusual personality changes may be indicative of a physical or mental disorder.

Substance use can change someone’s personality through the same mechanism they affect our essential bodily functions – by completely altering brain structure and activating its reward system.

Due to drugs influencing the brain’s reward circuitry, the brain associates the consumption of the substance to a pleasurable experience. This is what makes a person hooked to a drug and the euphoric feelings it can cause.

Personality changes, including increased aggression or impulsivity, may last a long time after an individual has stopped taking drugs because they involve functional changes to the brain.

6. Poor judgment or decision-making abilities

Poor judgment refers to the inability to make wise decisions. It is a common problem seen in people struggling with substance use disorder. When drugs become someone’s main priority, they may find it difficult to focus on other things, let alone make decisions involving things that are not seen as a priority.

Drugs can cause impaired judgment by impairing an individual’s short-term memory, concentration, and problem-solving skills. Put together, these impaired abilities can seriously affect a person’s decision-making because their thoughts might become incoherent as a result of these.

Any effects of drugs to the brain may have long-lasting effects and may persist following treatment. Additionally, the diminished ability to make effective decisions due to drug abuse may also lead to other dangers, such as driving under the influence, in which case some consequences may be irreversible.

7. Difficulty concentrating or focusing

hands writing on a laptop

Difficulty concentrating or focusing means that one cannot think clearly, focus on a single task, or maintain their attention at said task. This can affect many aspects of life, including responsibilities at work, school, and even at home. A lack of sound judgment is also a result of trouble concentrating.

Prolonged drug use can cause difficulties concentrating by inflicting long-term damage to the prefrontal cortex, which is an area of the brain responsible for many high-order cognitive processes, such as reasoning, decision-making, social cognition, and personality expression.

The reduced ability to concentrate may remain in an individual until the early phases of treatment and recovery. In fact, in a 2005 manual published in StatPearls with the title, “Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy,” it was stated that substance-related cognitive impairment is most severe in the early stages of recovery.

8. Social withdrawal or isolation

Social withdrawal means avoiding the things and people who would normally bring you joy. This can progress to social isolation, where you might even wish to avoid talking to your loved ones and close friends and spend most of your time alone.

Drug use can cause social withdrawal or isolation due to the feelings of shame and embarrassment the affected individual has toward their addiction. This might lead them to keep some distance from people they know in order to hide their drug use.

Social isolation or withdrawal may be resolved during drug addiction treatment, as various facilities offer individual and group therapy to help a patient reopen their lines of communication and feel less isolated.

9. Mood swings or emotional instability

Mood swings are fluctuations of emotion for an extended period of time, often for more than two weeks. On the other hand, emotional instability is a rapid and often exaggerated change in mood, where people may go from feeling happy to feeling extremely down in just a minute.

Substance abuse can cause mood swings by triggering changes in brain chemistry, which can alter a person’s moods and emotions. While under the influence, a drug addict may lash out at his or her family members or friends, which can negatively affect their personal relationships.

Mood swings may also last up until the start of treatment, because it can also be a result of withdrawal from the drug. Emotional instability as a withdrawal symptom may manifest as irritability, anxiety, and paranoia.

10. Increased risk of mental health disorders

An increased risk of mental health disorders means a greater likelihood of developing psychological disorders. Some serious mental disorders associated with chronic drug abuse are bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and antisocial personality disorder.

Drug abuse can increase one’s risk of mental health disorders by influencing the structure and function of the brain, leading to changes in the activity of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which are responsible for regulating mood, sleep, muscle movement, heart rate, learning, memory, and many other important functions.

Any change in the levels of neurotransmitters can cause various symptoms that contribute to mental health problems. People who are already at risk for a psychological disorder may also end up developing the condition once they abuse drugs.

Substance abuse and mental health conditions often co-occur, that is why an increased risk of mental disorders may remain even during treatment for substance abuse. It is critical that the individual needs to stop taking drugs first before they can be treated for their mental health issues.

What causes drug abuse?

The causes of drug abuse may involve a mix of contributing factors that lead to its development. The causes of drug abuse are listed below.

  • Genetics: Problems with substance use tend to run in families. Some traits that an individual may have inherited from their parents could have given them a genetic predisposition to drug abuse, making it more likely for them to become addicted to a substance once used. It is worth noting, however, that having a blood relative with substance abuse problems does not guarantee that you will develop the condition yourself, as there are other factors involved in the development of the disorder.
  • Changes in the brain: Changes in the structure and function of the brain can cause drug abuse. This is because as drug use goes on, structural and functional changes in the brain alters how a person feels and responds to pleasure. Once substance use has become habitual, the brain will associate it with a pleasurable feeling, thus making the affected person seek the pleasure over and over again.
  • Trauma: Traumatic experiences, such as childhood neglect or abuse, sexual or physical violence, assault, or witnessing traumatic events, could make someone more likely to turn to drugs in order to numb painful memories and reactions to trauma.
  • Maladaptive family dynamics: Growing up in a dysfunctional family can cause someone to have unhealthy attachment styles, which can have a long-lasting impact on how one deals with emotional turmoil. Some people try to cope with negative feelings through the use of drugs.
  • Substance use by caregivers: Growing up in a home with caregivers who are drug users may predict problems with substance abuse for a child later in their life. Aside from easy access to harmful substances, the effects of drugs on how their caregiver may treat them can also cause behavioral issues and concerns, which are potential risk factors for addiction.

Does physical abuse lead to drug abuse?

Yes, physical abuse may lead to drug abuse. The use of substances later in life is predicted by physical abuse during the first five years of life, according to the findings of a long-term study entitled, “Does Physical Abuse in Early Childhood Predict Substance Use in Adolescence and Early Adulthood?” published in the journal Child Maltreatment that followed mistreated children up to the age of 24.

Adults who experienced abuse as children frequently use drugs and alcohol as a coping strategy to deal with their traumatic upbringing. Unfortunately, adults who use drugs later in life are also more likely to abuse their own children.

A study by Megan Bears Agustyn, Terence P. Thornberry, and Kimberly L. Henry published in Feb. 2019 in the journal Development and Psychopathology shows how child abuse is passed down through generations through greater alcohol and drug usage.

What are the signs and symptoms of drug abuse?

The signs and symptoms of drug abuse may manifest in physical, psychological, and behavioral ways. The signs and symptoms of drug abuse are listed below.

  • Red eyes and dilated pupils: One of the first indications of drug abuse is noticeable changes to the eyes, such as redness and dilated pupils. Blood vessels in the eyes expand in response to the use of certain drugs. Dilation of the pupils also occurs when some drugs activate the brain’s reward system, leading to a boost in energy and alertness.
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits: Some drugs create feelings of increased mental and physical alertness, resulting in a reduced need for sleep in some people. According to a 2022 article entitled, “Sleep and Overeating,” from Sleep Foundation, research studies have also found that insufficient sleep boosts overeating and unhealthy dietary preferences. Some other drugs, however, may decrease appetite by suppressing the production of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, which is in charge of communicating with the brain about when to eat and when you’re full.
  • Unexplained changes in personality or attitude: Substance abuse can cause drastic changes in someone’s personality and behavior that make them seem like an entirely different person to their loved ones. A sudden change in group of friends and hangouts may be primarily because they are often aware of the fact that their friends and family would disapprove of their drug use.
  • Sudden mood swings or angry outbursts: People who experience mood swings due to drug abuse may appear happy one second and furious or nervous the next. They may also appear irritable, spaced-out, or lash out verbally at family members, even when their reactions are out of proportion to the situation that triggered them.
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home: Once drug use becomes the top priority of a person, they tend to spend a great deal of their time thinking about the drug, trying to obtain it, and recovering from its effects. This results in the affected individual underperforming at work, being absent at school, or missing important family events.

How do different types of drugs affect the body differently?

Different types of drugs have various effects on one’s body. Listed below are different types of drugs and their differences when it comes to how they affect the body.

  • Stimulants: Drugs in the stimulant class hasten the transmission of signals between the brain and body. They may awaken, alert, boost confidence, or energize a person. Nicotine, amphetamines, and cocaine are examples of stimulants. Over stimulation brought on by high doses may lead to agitation, hostility, panic attacks, seizures, migraines, stomach pains, and paranoia. Stimulants are likely to be more dangerous when taken with alcohol or other drugs.
  • Heroin: is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that impacts a person’s breathing and slows down their brain activity. Blood pressure and body temperature decline, and the person’s heartbeat may also become irregular. The effects of heroin are exacerbated when a person has taken other depressants, such as alcohol, tranquilizers, or methadone, which can lead to coma or even death.
  • Cannabis (marijuana): Cannabis can affect the body in various ways. While it has medical uses, smoking marijuana may also worsen lung irritability, impair judgment and memory, delay reaction times, and cause red eyes.
  • Hallucinogens: These drugs may alter their user’s perception of reality. For instance, they may experience auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations, and tactile hallucinations. Some typical effects of hallucinogens also include blurred vision, dizziness, vomiting, increased breathing rate, increased body temperature, and loss of appetite.
  • Dissociative anesthetics: Dissociative drugs may produce mind-altering effects that are different from hallucinations and may include distorted perceptions of sight and sound, as well as feelings of dissociation from the environment and oneself. The more observable effects of dissociatives include fast and uncontrollable eye movements, a blank stare, and gait abnormalities.

How can drug abuse affect a person’s social and family life?

Drug abuse can affect a person’s social and family life by causing changes in the affected individual’s personality and behavior, as well as changing their priorities in life. Due to how people struggling with addiction are often shunned by society, the addict may choose to isolate themselves from friends and loved ones.

The person suffering from drug abuse may also neglect responsibilities at home in favor of substance use. The effects of harmful substances in the brain might make them easily forget important events, or make them seem always distracted and cannot focus. These changes could make family members feel as if they are being ignored or their feelings are being invalidated.

How can drug abuse affect a person’s ability to function in daily life?

Drug abuse can affect a person’s ability to function in daily life by altering how they think, feel, and behave. The effects of substance abuse are tremendous, especially on the brain, which is responsible for many essential, life-sustaining functions.

With prolonged use, different physical reactions from different kinds of drugs can cause permanent damage to the brain and other major organs, and an increased risk of diseases from sharing needles.

Drug use can also increase one’s risk of or exacerbate a wide array of mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. Individuals with psychological disorders may also turn to drugs in an attempt to self-medicate.

These physical and mental effects can make it difficult for the affected person to fully function in daily life, as the consequences of drug abuse are often debilitating and can hamper many areas of life.

Can drug abuse lead to permanent physical or mental damage?

Yes, drug abuse can lead to permanent physical or mental damage. The long-term, negative mental and physical effects of substance abuse may also depend on the drug a person has been using.

For instance, methamphetamines can cause severe dental problems and the risk of HIV, hepatitis, and other illnesses through sharing needles. Meanwhile, the long-term mental effects of meth include mood problems, violent behavior, paranoia, confusion, hallucinations, and delusions.

Psychoactive drugs such as cannabis and stimulants can also cause changes and deficits in cognition and behavior, even after someone quits drug use.

a boy looking himself in a broken mirror

It is worth noting that any and all forms of drug use can have negative effects on the body and mind, may necessitate hospitalization, and even result in death. A drug addict’s life expectancy, beginning at the time the addiction starts, is only 15 to 20 years longer if the drug abuse goes untreated, according to an article on the long-term effects of drug use from Turnbridge.

What are some effective treatment options for drug abuse?

The effective treatment options for drug abuse typically include a combination of different interventions. Some effective treatment options for drug abuse are listed below.

  • Medically supervised detoxification: Detoxification, or detox, means allowing harmful substances from drug use to leave the body. Withdrawal symptoms can be extremely unpleasant and sometimes life-threatening, that is why the goal of medically supervised detox is to make sure that the process of detoxification is both safe and effective.
  • Medications: Medicines do not cure addiction, but they aid in recovery by relieving uncontrollable cravings and managing withdrawal symptoms. They can also help alter an individual’s brain chemistry to treat substance abuse.
  • Behavioral therapy: This form of psychotherapy can be done individually, in groups, and even with the affected person’s family members. Behavioral therapy involves talking to a mental health professional in order to treat drug abuse and any other co-occurring mental health issues.
  • Self-help groups: involve meeting with people who also share the same experiences and also struggle from the same problems as the affected individual. This supportive environment gives someone a safe space where they can share experiences and offer support to others who can understand what they are going through.
  • Ongoing treatment: After completing initial treatment, ongoing treatment and support can be beneficial in preventing a relapse. An article entitled, “Drug addiction (substance use disorder)” published in Mayo Clinic, adds that follow-up care may take the form of routine group meetings, follow-up sessions with your counselor, or participation in a self-help program.

What is the difference between drug abuse and drug addiction?

The difference between drug abuse and drug addiction lies in the behaviors involved in the two conditions. When comparing drug addiction vs. drug abuse, many people use the terms interchangeably. However, the two terms can be distinguished mainly by the behaviors each of them entails.

Drug abuse is the excessive use of legal or illegal drugs to achieve pleasurable effects on the brain. It does not always imply addiction to the drugs involved. If someone wants to do so, they can still discontinue taking the substance at this point in time.

On the other hand, drug addiction involves a compulsive pattern of drug use, where an individual’s focus becomes centered on obtaining and using drugs. Drug usage becomes increasingly difficult to resist, and attempts to stop using drugs may result in withdrawal symptoms.