Home Mental Health Drug Addiction, Effects, Treatment and How to Recover

Drug Addiction, Effects, Treatment and How to Recover


In 2021, the World Drug Report showed that across the globe, a total of 275 million people used drugs in 2020, with 36 million others suffering from drug addiction. These stats present a grim picture of how drug use disorder is prevalent worldwide.

The effects are devastating, and they range from short-term to long-term. The worst part is that overcoming addiction is nearly impossible, at least for some people. The effects of drug abuse can continue even after the person has stopped using the substance.

Drugs contain chemicals that affect the body and the brain, and with the many different types of drugs flooding the market, the effects vary from one person to another.

People take drugs using different ways – some of the common ways include inhalation, injection, and ingestion. The severity of the effects of the drugs depends on how one takes them.

For instance, if the drug is delivered through an injection into the bloodstream, the impact is immediate. Ingestion has a delayed effect. Nevertheless, all drugs affect the brain by activating the production of high amounts of dopamine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that aids the regulation of our hormones and feelings of pleasure.

The elevated amounts of dopamine in your body gradually affect how the brain function and it interferes with your decision-making capability, causing intense cravings and compulsive drug dependency. As time goes by, this behavior grows into substance dependency, hence drug addiction.

Drug addiction is a serious cause for concern. The majority of deaths, illnesses, and disabilities people experience are linked to drug and substance abuse. People suffering from drug addiction are also vulnerable to self-inflicted harm, unintentional injuries, accidents, and cases of domestic violence.

Luckily, drug addiction is treatable. Read on to learn how to overcome it.

What is Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction is also known as substance use disorder or drug abuse. It is caused by the continued use of addictive substances such as marijuana, alcohol, hallucinogens, and opioids among others.

Drug abuse is a disease. It forces people to compulsively depend on substances such as marijuana or alcohol despite the harsh consequences of side effects.

Here are some of the effects of drug addition:

a) Effects Of Drug Abuse On Health

As already mentioned, the effects of drug abuse can be short-term or long-term. It depends on the type of drug used, the duration one has used it, the type of drug, as well as a person’s general health.

Overall, the negative effects of drug abuse and an individual’s dependence can be severe. They may affect almost every organ in the human body causing them to shut down, eventually.

Some of the side effects of drug addiction include:

  • A weakened immune system leads to an increased risk of illnesses and infections
  • Cardiovascular issues such as abnormal heartbeats, hypertension, collapsed veins, and blood vessel infections
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Liver damage or failure
  • Seizures, stroke, mental confusion, and brain damage
  • Lung disease
  • Impaired judgment and poor decision-making
  • An increase in body temperature can cause other health problems

Apart from neurological and mental health problems, drug and substance abuse is also linked with many health problems including kidney damage, and HIV as a result of risky behaviors such as unprotected sex, and cancer of the mouth, neck, stomach, and lungs.

The most unfortunate health consequence of drug addiction is death. Opioids, for instance, are responsible for two-thirds of the 585,000 people who died as a result of drug use in 2017.

b) Effects of Drug Addiction on the Brain

The ‘reward’ circuit of the brain is affected by all drugs including cocaine, marijuana, and heroin, among others. This part of the brain is a component of the limbic system which controls our instincts and mood.

With drugs targeting this part of the brain, large amounts of dopamine are produced. This is what causes drug dependency.

The initial stages of drug use may be voluntary, but the drugs will alter your brain chemistry progressively. This steady effect changes how your brain functions interfering with your ability to make certain choices. In the end, you will convince yourself that you can’t do without the drugs.

Drug abuse, for example, alcohol addiction disrupts the brain’s communication pathways influencing your other cognitive abilities.

The damage may also occur through alcohol-induced nutrition deficiencies, alcohol-induced seizures, and liver disease.

In pregnant women, alcohol exposure impacts negatively the brain development of unborn babies. This results in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

It is widely said that alcohol-induced problems can be corrected through treatment. Some of the cognitive abilities such as memory skills can be partially repaired by abstaining from alcohol for months or years.

c) Drug Addiction Effects on Behavior

The multiple behavioral problems experienced when one is addicted to drugs or alcohol include paranoia, aggressiveness, hallucinations, impaired judgment, impulsiveness, and loss of self-control.

All these side effects may contribute to serious consequences, both physically and emotionally. For example, one may:

  • Cause self-harm
  • Miss work and eventually get fired
  • Get involved in domestic violence
  • Be involved in child abuse or sexual harassment acts
  • Commit punishable offenses such as stealing – money, and jewelry, and driving under influence, to name a few
  • Cause accidents, such as in DUIs
  • Cause injuries, to themselves or their loved ones.

It is no surprise that drugs and alcohol are partly to blame for up to 80 percent of offenses leading to jail time in the United States. Other countries are no exception. Often, you will encounter such individuals being involved in acts of domestic violence, causing accidents while drunk or intoxicated, and damaging property, among others.

Other Effects of Drug

Other effects of drug abuse include being anti-sociable, that is, distancing yourself from your loved ones, hurting them, stealing from them, or worse still, inflicting harm on them.

One is also likely to experience financial problems given how drugs and alcohol are expensive. This is especially the case if you are consuming or using the drugs excessively.

Your productivity is also greatly impacted since you are likely going to spend lots of time thinking about your cravings and how to service them. The time you spend searching for what will satisfy your compulsive behavior and the subsequent duration of treatment can be better spent advancing your life or building your career.

Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment

Drug and alcohol addiction, as harsh as it may sound, is not a moral failing. It is totally treatable.

Of course, there is no single ‘cure’ for drug addiction but the primary ways of treatment include:

  • Psychotherapy Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or family therapy, are some of the easiest ways the treatment of drug and substance abuse. These sessions can help someone with drug addiction think better and develop healthier behaviors.
  • Behavioral therapy – Good examples of this treatment are motivational enhancement therapy (MET) and contingency management (CM). These therapy treatments help one to learn how to cope and build positive reinforcement.
  • Medication – Apart from therapy, there are prescribed medications that help in dealing with drug and substance use disorders. These medications ease withdrawal symptoms in severe cases and they include naltrexone, bupropion, and methadone for alcohol, nicotine, and opioid addiction, respectively.
  • Hospitalization – Hospitalization is for those people who need to detox from drug and substance abuse before beginning the recovery journey. 
  • Support groups – Self-help groups also make some of the common ways for alcohol treatment. These peer support groups help individuals find the right people they can relate with and hold hands with during the recovery process.

Drug addiction treatment options are many, but to get everything right, it is important to find a personalized plan that works for you with the help of a specialist.

Drug and Substance Abuse Recovery Process

The recovery process for drug and substance addiction takes time. The process is done with the help of a specialist. It can also be done at home, but there are dangers involved including easily giving up or being overwhelmed by withdrawal symptoms.

If you are, however, looking to recover from drug addiction, the following steps should help you:

i) Acknowledge Your Drug Addiction Problem

The journey to a successful drug and substance abuse recovery begins with you accepting that it is a problem. This is often the hardest part given that your brain convinces you to try and justify why you should keep using it.

Acknowledging your problem takes courage, and it shows that you are all in – that you want to face all the challenges and the underlying root causes.

There are many places, facilities, and people you can run to for help, but having a stellar support system is fundamentally important for every treatment or recovery approach you choose. If you cannot open up to your friend or family about this, talk to a counselor or a therapist.

ii) Reflect on How Addiction Has Affected You

Take some time to look back on how your addiction has affected what is important to you in life, how it has negatively impacted you, and the positives you will enjoy through sobriety.

A reflection of your actions manifests better if you keep them recorded. Update your journal or diary daily so that you can identify the patterns, the triggers, your goals, and your greatest motivations. This will allow you to cope during your recovery journey.

iii) Seek Professional Support

Withdrawal symptoms can take a toll on your health, not to mention that they can get really dangerous without the help of professionals. It is, therefore, important to seek professional support from drug and substance abuse specialists.

With their help, you can be taken through various treatment options including individual, group, and family therapy, peer support groups, counseling, and detoxification.

iv) Value the Benefits of Sobriety

Achieving sobriety is the ultimate goal of your drug addiction problem. It helps you regain all the positive things you’ve lost in life.

Addressing co-occurring disorders such as depression, stress, and anxiety will help you:

  • Achieve a greater sense of satisfaction and freedom
  • Keep your emotions and cognitive abilities improved
  • Enjoy healthier relationships with your friends and family
  • Stay free from legal and punishable offenses
  • Spend more time doing what truly matters

v) Identify Your Triggers

It is easy to undo all you have done once you relapse. This, however, can be prevented, but it begins with you identifying your triggers and keeping them as far away as possible.

A trigger is an item, substance, or person that conjures an emotional reaction that might force you to start using again.

Thinking “just one smoke and all will be good” or “maybe a glass won’t do me no harm” will not cut it. Eliminate such triggers in your life.

Some of the easy-to-identify triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Unsettling emotions
  • Environmental cues
  • Being alone
  • Mental or physical illness

Once you have identified these triggers, manage them by developing sustainable coping skills.

vi) Change Your Environment

Drug and substance addiction is exacerbated by the same routines and habits. If you are on a recovery plan, you would do well to change your environment, otherwise, you will relapse faster than you can say “No.”

Avoid places, people, and situations that only serve to trigger your addiction. During recovery, many things will change including the places you frequent, who you spend your time with, and what you do in your free time.

vii) Accept The Past

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Your past doesn’t have to define you if you have achieved sobriety. It is only natural to feel guilty, and perhaps ashamed. But as you move forward in your recovery, you must make amends with your friends and loved ones to better cope.

Once you accept your past, you get the opportunity to work on yourself for the better, now and in the future.

vii) Call For Help

If you can’t bring yourself to admit to others that you have a drug action, call someone for help. They will talk to you, listen, and recommend the best steps forward. It can be challenging; however, the benefits of seeking help and the initial stages of your drug addiction recovery process far outweigh the risks of continued substance use.

Bottom Line

You are not alone in the fight against drug addiction. This disease is common but totally preventable. The sooner you seek help, the faster you can achieve your long-term recovery goals. Don’t fight alone!

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