No one starts using drugs with the intention of developing serious long-term problems. But the fact is, prolonged drug abuse has a harmful effect on every aspect of your health: physical, mental and emotional. Addiction undermines intimate relationships, breaks up families, destroys careers and ravages financial resources. If you’re chemically dependent on drugs, getting clean may be one of the toughest challenges you’ve ever faced — but the effort you put into your recovery could very well save your life.
Facts About Drug Abuse
If you have any doubts about whether drug addiction can cause serious damage, consider these facts from the National Institutes of Health:
- Drug abuse accounts for twice as many deaths today as it did in the 1980s.
- Drug addiction causes more deaths than any other preventable problem.
- Drug abuse and addiction are responsible for more disabilities and illnesses than any other lifestyle-related condition.
- About 25 percent of deaths are related to drug, alcohol or tobacco abuse.
- Drug abuse can lead to legal problems including mandatory jail time. Half the prison population in the US is there on charges relating to drugs, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
In the early stages, you may feel that you’re in control of your drug use. You might be able to restrict your use to weekends, parties or gatherings with certain friends. But because many illicit drugs are habit-forming, it’s likely that you will eventually run into the greatest risk of drug abuse: addiction.
Long-Term Health Consequences
The concerns of prolonged drug abuse don’t usually appear overnight. Some users go for months or years without experiencing the physical or psychological consequences of substance abuse. But the longer you use drugs, the greater the chances that you’ll be affected by one or more of the health consequences of addiction:
- Heart problems. Abusing stimulants like meth or cocaine can cause heart palpitations, an irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure or a heart attack. Central nervous system depressants like heroin or prescription opioids can cause circulatory depression.
- Lung disease. Smoking drugs like marijuana, cocaine, meth or heroin can cause serious damage to the lungs. Abusing depressants like morphine or heroin can cause respiratory depression and increase your risk of lung problems like pneumonia.
- Neurological and psychological effects. Hallucinogenic drugs like LSD can cause psychotic episodes and paranoia. Marijuana use can cause memory problems, learning difficulties, depression and anxiety. The abuse of cocaine, meth and other stimulants can increase the risk of having a stroke. Cocaine abuse can cause psychosis and seizures.
- Sexual dysfunction and infertility. Marijuana can have a negative impact on sexual function and may contribute to infertility in both men and women. The long-term use of cocaine restricts blood flow to the sex organs, resulting in sexual dysfunction and impotence.
- Complications with pregnancy. Drug abuse during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight and birth defects. Babies born to addicted mothers may be chemically dependent themselves. As they grow older, children whose mothers used drugs during pregnancy have a greater risk of developmental delays and behavioral disorders.
For casual drug users, the end results of long-term addiction might seem impossibly far away. But whether you’re dabbling in drugs on an occasional basis or using every day, it’s important to take these potential consequences seriously.
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Help for Prolonged Drug Addiction
If you’ve been using drugs for a long time, you may feel that you’ve run out of options, and that a healthy future is beyond your reach. In fact, thousands of long-term users have successfully recovered with the help of caring, experienced addiction specialists. At our treatment programs in California or Tennessee, you can get the support you need to get clean, no matter where you are in the continuum of addiction. Contact the intake counselors at one of our exclusive rehab facilities to start the process of recovery today.
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton