Addiction can have several long-term effects, especially if a person has struggled for an extended period. Years of substance abuse can hurt both our physical and mental health. It can hurt our entire life. Learning about the long-term effects of addiction can help educate and discourage others from abusing alcohol and drugs.
Physical Effects of Long-Term Addiction
Addiction can affect multiple parts of the body in various ways. Numerous physical effects can occur, and they can be permanent, especially if the substance abuse continues.
The heart is one of the most commonly affected organs when someone struggles with addiction. Many substances cause cardiovascular problems such as blood pressure issues, heart rate problems, irregular rhythms, bacterial infections, collapsed veins, enlargement of the heart, and possible heart attacks.
The brain is another organ commonly affected by addiction. Drugs and alcohol permanently alter a person’s brain. The brain develops a tolerance over time, and more and more of the drug are needed to reach the same effect. Also, the brain will eventually crave drugs. The brain’s reward circuit is affected over time, too, and many times, individuals will develop mental health disorders. Mental health issues can, in turn, make the addiction worse.
Other Physical Effects of Long-Term Substance Abuse
Alcoholism affects the liver. Alcohol damages the liver if a person has drunk for a long period. Cirrhosis of the liver is common with alcoholism. Opioids, steroids, and inhalants can also damage the liver if used for a prolonged period. The liver cleats out toxins from the body. If constantly overworked, it can cause scarring, cancer, tissue necrosis, and chronic inflammation.
The kidneys are another organ that is affected by long-term addiction. Kidney failure is commonly seen in drug addicts since the kidneys also filter out toxins from the body.
Another long-term effect of substance abuse is its correlation with autoimmune disorders. This is something you don’t commonly hear about, but abusing drugs for years has a negative impact on a person’s immune system. Many different autoimmune diseases can occur in people with years of addiction issues.
Mental Effects of Long-Term Addiction
Long-term addiction physically damages an individual’s brain and causes mental problems. Those that already had mental health issues could have disorders that worsen from long-term addiction.
The National Institute of Health “Substance Use and Associated Health Conditions throughout the Lifespan” says:
Adults diagnosed with an SUD and comorbid mental health disorder are at increased risk for poor health, social dysfunction, incarceration, poverty, and homelessness. Anxiety disorders represent some of the most commonly co-occurring disorders, with significant associations between any anxiety disorder and any drug dependence. Among the general US population, 30 percent of those meeting criteria for any lifetime drug use disorder had at least one anxiety disorder. In particular, sedative, opioid, and tranquilizer use disorders have shown a strong association with anxiety disorders. Women have demonstrated greater comorbidity between these specific SUDs and anxiety disorders, especially social and specific phobias. Although epidemiologic surveys cannot definitively support the self-medication hypothesis, some speculate that the calming effects of these drugs play a role in their link to comorbid anxiety. (NIH)
A person’s behavior may also change from long-term drug use. For example, constant lying, hanging around bad influences, hiding things, or getting into legal trouble.
Other Effects of Long-Term Addiction
Other effects of long-term drug abuse can include financial problems and legal problems. Addiction can cause an extreme strain on a person’s finances. The cost of using often puts people in debt and gets behind on their necessities such as rent, food, and other important bills. This could eventually cause foreclosure or eviction problems.
Many people also lose their jobs due to missed workdays or poor job performance. Without a job or money, the addiction could cause a person to turn to illegal activities to feed their addiction, leading to legal trouble.
Many addicts get arrested for driving under the influence, public intoxication, or stealing. This then leads to mounting fines and possibly even prison time. If you have struggled with addiction for years and are now finding yourself in legal trouble, this may be your rock bottom and time for you to get into treatment before things get worse.
Your Journey to Lasting Sobriety Begins Here at ASPEN Behavioral Health
Aspen Behavioral Health understands how hard the recovery process can be. Recovery is a journey and not a destination. Our programs help people overcome addiction and mental health issues by helping them change their lifestyles. We have a team of compassionate and understanding professionals who are invested in your success. If you or someone you love is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, give us a call and let our team help you.