Drug Abuse & Addiction: Effects on Brain, Risk Factors, Signs

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To say that drugs are dangerous would be an understatement. Drugs have changed lives, ruined them, and even taken them in some cases. Someone who suffers from a substance use disorder will experience severe physical and psychological reactions, especially if the problem remains untreated. 

In fact, previous studies show that over 23 million U.S. adults have experienced drug addiction and that 75% of drug users reported that they did not get any type of treatment. People start consuming drugs either to fit in or because they like how the substance makes them feel. Unfortunately, this can be very dangerous and even result in deaths caused by an overdose. 

So, what are the signs of drug abuse and addiction and how do they affect your mind and body? Here’s everything you need to know.

What Are the Signs of Drug Addiction?

Whether you’re having a substance problem or someone you’re close to is the one abusing drugs, it’s important to recognize the signs of addiction. Not only can it help you realize that there’s a problem and that rehab is necessary, but it can even save a life. 

Here are some of the signs that there’s a drug abuse problem:

  • When you have no money to pay for your drugs, you borrow or steal it from someone else.
  • In order to get the effects that you seek, you need more and more of the drug.
  • You keep taking a particular substance even when you do not need it as a treatment for a medical problem anymore.
  • It’s hard to put limits on your consumption, and every time you try to determine a certain amount you will use, you end up using more than what you thought initially.
  • You think about the substance all the time. Thoughts include when to use the drug, how to obtain more, how it makes you feel, and so on.
  • When you’re taking prescribed medications, you also take other drugs or even alcohol with them.
  • In order to be prescribed a drug for a certain medical issue, you go to several doctors.
  • You check the medicine cabinets of other people to see if you can find drugs to take.
  • Your appearance has changed. You may have lost or gained weight, your eyes are bloodshot, and you shake. Not only that, but you may also have a bloody nose quite frequently and bad breath.
  • Once the effects of the drug go away, you start to feel strange. You may be feeling sick and depressed, and you may be shaking. Headaches might also appear. People in more severe situations might deal with seizures or feel confused.
  • While you’re under the influence of drugs, you do dangerous things, such as driving or using heavy machinery.
  • It’s hard for you to take care of normal, daily tasks like working or cooking.
  • The things that once interested you mean nothing to you anymore.
  • You hide the drug problem from your loved ones.
  • Suddenly, you sleep too little or too much, or eat less or more.
  • You have found a group of friends that you do drugs with.
drug addiction

How Does Drug Abuse Affect You?

Although the situation may look different for each person, it doesn’t change the fact that drug abuse can have a huge impact on your health. Depending on factors such as the severity of the abuse, the duration of the problem, and whether you combine your drugs with other substances or not, you may be experiencing short- and long-term effects on your health. 

Drug addiction effects can be physical and psychological. Here is how drug abuse can affect you and why treatment for addiction should not be overlooked:

Physical Effects

  • Lung disease
  • A weak immune system, which can make it more likely to deal with infections or illnesses
  • Abdominal pain and nausea
  • Increased liver strain – this can result in severe liver damage in the future and even liver failure
  • Mental confusion, brain damage, stroke, or seizures
  • Heart conditions that may include abnormal heart rates, blood vessel infections, collapsed veins, and others

Brain Effects

  • The communicative pathways of the brain are disrupted, which can influence behavior, mood, and other things
  • The “reward” system of the brain is being affected; this part is responsible for mood and instinct, and by abusing drugs in the long term, it can become hard for the brain to feel pleasure without the drug being present
  • The way the brain performs can change, which can affect how an individual makes choices
  • You may experience anxiety and/or depression

Behavioral Effects

  • Paranoia
  • Impulsiveness
  • Hallucinations
  • Aggressiveness
  • A loss of self-control

Risk Factors for Drug Abuse

Believe it or not, some people are more likely to use drugs than others. There are risk factors that can influence whether someone becomes addicted to drugs or not. Although risk factors do not always cause someone to abuse drugs, they certainly increase the probability. 

Some risk factors for substance abuse include:

  • A lack of connection with the school
  • Sexual abuse suffered in childhood
  • A substance use history in the family
  • Bad parental monitoring
  • Suffering from mental health problems
  • Having bad academic achievements
  • Having a family that rejects your gender identity or sexual orientation
  • Parental substance abuse
  • Associating with people who use drugs
  • Having parents who somehow support the abuse

Final Thoughts

If drug abuse is not treated, it can lead to severe long-term issues and may even result in the user’s death. The more you use a drug, the more your tolerance builds up, which means you’ll need an increased amount to be able to obtain the effects you seek. 

The risk of substance abuse increases in people with a family that has a history of drug use, as well as those who deal with mental health issues or have experienced traumatic things. If you think you have a problem, don’t hesitate to ask for help and work to get better.