The consequences of using substances for the long-term can be pretty devastating. It not only puts stress on the user but it affects the people around them as well. Physical and psychological effects can easily turn a healthy person into a frail version of themselves which is why it is important to know the long term effects of substance abuse.
Effects on the Body
The use and abuse of substances can definitely cause harm to one’s physical health. The effects of substance abuse can have lifetime consequences too depending on how mild or severe use is. In fact, almost all major organs in the body are affected by prolonged substance use. Here’s what you need to know:
- Respiratory system – lungs damaged by smoking and inhaling drugs can cause lung cancer, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. Users might also experience severe asthma and difficulty breathing in the long run.
- Cardiovascular system – there are plenty of substances, particularly stimulants, that can cause severe damages to the heart. As the major pumping organ in the body, long-term substance use can lead to heart failure, diseases of the heart and can even cause the veins to collapse. Infections can also cause damage to the heart if substance abuse is not corrected immediately.
- Liver – substances like alcohol, opioids, and heroin can cause a lot of destruction in the liver.
- Kidneys – kidneys play a big part in filtering the toxins in our body but when the person is abusing drugs and alcohol for years, it could lead to kidney damage and failure as well as other kidney problems that could be irreversible.
- Gastrointestinal damages – acid reflux, ulceration, constipation, damaged intestines and many more can also happen if the person has been abusing drugs and alcohol for years.
Quitting drugs and alcohol at an early stage is better as it leads to quicker recovery compared to those who choose to seek help after years of addiction.
Effects on the Brain
Truth is, drug and alcohol addiction is difficult to overcome because it changes the chemicals in the brain. Drugs often produce the sensations of pleasure because of how they work on the brain. In short, it gives “rewards” to the brain which causes the neurotransmitter dopamine of the brain to release more. When this happens, the extreme sensation of euphoria is felt by the user and in return, the person will do more drugs to experience that “high” over and over again. This overstimulation in the brain produces the pleasure that the person needs which could be very addicting.
Because of this, substances work in a way that will cause a person to use and reuse it more often. The long-lasting effects of overstimulation can lead to permanent changes in the brain. Over time, the brain will produce less dopamine and the person will use in higher doses in order to get the stimulation they need. This is also the reason why many substance users become depressed and lethargic after their high wears off.
Besides changes in the dopamine levels, there are plenty of other ways that substances can affect the brain. Long-term substance abuse can lead to:
- Changes in memory – this means decreased capacity to memorize and learn.
- Impaired cognitive function – this means that the person has difficulty thinking and learning because the neurotransmitter called glutamate is affected by substance abuse.
- Brain cells die – substances carry toxins that can kill brain cells and when brain cells die, they do not come back. As a result, brain damage is permanent.
- Changes in brain connections – physical changes can also happen in the brain when the person uses substances for a long time. This means that drugs can sever the connections of neurons in the brain while potentially creating other connections that the brain does not need which could lead to permanent brain damage in the long run.
If the person stops using drugs at an early stage, these brain changes can still be saved. In fact, a study showed that if a person stops using drugs or alcohol within 100 days, the brain can still recover. Although the changes are not fully recovered, there is a chance that your brain can still function after detoxing and withdrawing from long-term drug use.
Mental illness is the end term of your drug and alcohol abuse. It has been proven that drugs and alcohol can trigger and contribute to worsening any mental health condition that is underlying to the user. Studies show that people who have mood disorders are most likely to abuse substances compared to those without them. That being said, drugs can either trigger or worsen mental health issues that a person may already have.
Besides the physical and psychological effects on a person, long-term substance abuse can lead to death. In fact, news of people across the world who have died from overdosing has proven that substances can be lethal. Any misuse of drugs and alcohol can be fatal. If the user is careless with the way they handle substances, overdosing is a serious possibility.
Drug and alcohol abuse does not only have long-lasting impacts on a person’s health, but it will also affect their life in general. Problems in finances and relationships are also evident in people struggling with substance abuse. Strained relationships, may it be with their families or friends, and drained bank accounts are among the many results of long-term substance abuse.
These 10 ways to celebrate sobriety article is a great inspirational post, check it out!
Drug and alcohol abuse can be eliminated if you choose to change. There are plenty of ways to detox and withdraw from substance use as there are plenty of rehabilitation centers who can help you out. The only thing you need to do is to choose to stop using drugs and alcohol, get well and accept the help you need It’s your choice. Choose life over death! If you value yourself, your life and the people who love you, then you know what to do.
Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.