What are The Dangers of Substance Abuse?
Substance abuse is a serious problem in the United States and throughout the world. Drugs, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and other substances have been used by people for centuries to relax, socialize with others and obtain a “high” which can provide temporary feelings of elation and pleasure. While using some of these substances is legal (such as drinking alcohol or coffee), most are illegal and can cause serious and even life-threatening problems for those who become addicted.
With over 22 million people in the US classified as being addicted to drug use and alcohol, learning about the dangers of substance abuse is key to preventing addiction. While many people may think that they can use these substances without becoming addicted, this is often not the case and once individuals become addicted, withdrawal symptoms will make them crave more of the drug.
This guide discusses some of the dangers of substance use disorder and addiction, along with information on how to get help.
What is Substance Abuse?
A substance is any material that, when inhaled, injected, or ingested changes the way the body functions. Many people will think of illegal narcotics such as heroin or cocaine when they hear that term, but there are many legal substances that can be abused, including drugs prescribed by a doctor and alcohol.
People abuse substances for a number of reasons – to help them relax, to feel happier, or even to help them fit in with friends they want to impress. Regardless of the reason, there are some serious dangers associated with substance abuse that no user should ignore.
Some of the most common substances which are abused include:
Marijuana – considered a gateway drug by many, marijuana is often used as an illegal form of self-medication for pain relief. It can also be used to induce hunger and increase users’ levels of happiness. While it does not cause physical withdrawal symptoms when people stop using, it can cause emotional and psychological issues such as depression and stress.
Cocaine – a powerful stimulant, cocaine is extremely addictive and may be snorted or injected by those who abuse it. Besides its short-term effects on increasing wakefulness and feelings of euphoria, this drug also causes side effects such as fever, headache, anxiety, nausea, and paranoia.
Heroin – considered to be one of the most dangerous drugs in the world, heroin is extremely addicting and withdrawal symptoms can include muscle aches, diarrhea, vomiting, and insomnia. The drug can be snorted or injected by abusers, but this often leads to serious health concerns including collapsed veins, infections of the heart lining and valves as well as serious illness.
Opioids – another highly abused drug, opioids include prescription drugs such as codeine, hydrocodone, or oxycodone. While these medications are used to treat pain by many medical professionals, long-term use can lead to serious health problems including liver damage and addiction.
Cigarettes – it may be surprising to know that cigarettes are considered to be a drug, but when over 22 million people in the United States use them, they have been shown to have serious effects on physical and mental health. Besides causing cancer, smoking can also lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and damage to the lungs.
Alcohol – a legal drug that is often abused by many, alcohol is considered to be the favorite drug of adolescents and young adults. Some people drink to relax or socialize, but excessive drinking can lead to serious medical concerns including damage to major organs such as the brain, liver, and heart. Alcoholism can also lead to psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, and even suicide.
While many individuals think that they can escape the dangers of alcoholism and drug dependence by simply choosing not to use them, this is often not the case. Addiction is a serious condition that causes an uncontrollable need for these substances in regular users. This addiction may change how people act and think, even when they do not have access to the drugs they require.
Effect of Drug Addiction on Your Brain
When people are addicted to drugs, they are not just abusing chemicals that alter their moods and can cause mental disorders. They are also subjecting their brains to chemical changes that can alter the very structure of their minds over time. This is because long-term substance abuse can cause addiction or dependence which makes it incredibly difficult for users to stop taking drugs without help.
Phases of Drug Abuse
While many people are aware of the different stages of drug abuse, few understand what changes occur in their brain during this process. The following are some of the key phases which cause addiction to develop when drugs are abused:
Tolerance – an increasing ability to ignore or endure the effects of a particular substance after repeated exposure. Because drug tolerance leads users to need higher doses in order to feel the same effects, it can cause overdose and addiction.
Withdrawal – physical and psychological symptoms that include anxiety, depression, mood swings, lack of energy, and insomnia which occur after an individual stops using drugs following prolonged exposure. Although withdrawal does not always lead to addiction, its presence can make it difficult for people to stop abusing drugs on their own.
Craving – a usually uncontrollable need for a drug that often leads to relapse in those who have tried to stop using substances. Although cravings do not always mean that addiction has developed, they can cause people to ignore the negative effects of substance abuse and risk their lives as well as those of others in order to seek out a particular substance.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
There are many different types of substance use that can affect people’s mental health, but one of the most common is fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. This condition occurs in children whose mothers drank alcoholic beverages during pregnancy leading to both physical and mental consequences for their child.
While no amount of alcohol has been proven safe for pregnant women, drinking even small amounts can lead to issues with their babies. These children are more likely to have trouble with seizures, abnormal facial features, problems with their nervous system, and brain damage which may result in learning disabilities and mental retardation.
If individuals are struggling with their drug use and want to stop taking these substances, they can turn to Emmaus Medical & Recovery Center. Our treatment center provides patients with addiction treatment, addiction medicine, and the help that they need for addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. Get in touch today!