What Is the Worst-Case Scenario when Someone Is Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol?

Addiction is a form of disease, and it can pose a series of negative consequences on a person’s well-being, physical health and professional life. There are many forms of addiction, and each one poses its own series of risks.

While drug and alcohol use often begin as voluntary behaviors, addiction prompts chemical alterations in the brain that affect memory, behavior and the perception of pleasure and pain. Conscious decisions turn into compulsive actions, and major health, financial and social consequences often follow.

Click on one of the tabs below to learn about one of the following topics related to addiction, including the worst-case scenarios for each.

  • Health Consequences
  • Physical Consequences
  • Social Consequences
  • Consequences for Adolescents

Health Effects of Substance Abuse

Compulsive cravings combined with prolonged substance abuse can prompt physical consequences throughout the body. Most substances will cause strain on the organs, as well as the venous and respiratory system after prolonged use. Many forms of addiction alter the user’s physical make-up, sometimes even just after a few weeks of use.

Physical Effects of Substance Abuse Include:

  • Organ damage
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Cancer (caused by nicotine or steroid use)
  • Prenatal and fertility issues
  • Gastrointestinal disease

In addition to the above medical concerns, chronic use of certain substances can lead to long-term neurological impairment, such as exacerbating or giving rise to mental health problems.


  • Neurological and Emotional Effects of Substance Abuse Include the Following Mental Health Conditions:

    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Memory loss
    • Aggression
    • Mood swings
    • Paranoia
    • Psychosis

    The ultimate health consequence of substance abuse, of course, is death – either caused directly by a situation such as an overdose or heart attack, or eventually through the development of drug-induced cancer or AIDs.

    Legal Consequences of Addiction

    Many addictive substances are highly regulated and, in certain situations, even banned by local and federal governments. This is done in an attempt to reduce the damage imposed by chronic substance abuse and to protect the well-being of Americans.

    Being caught with a large quantity of drugs could result in a prison sentence as long as 40 years. Civil lawsuits may come with it as well, depending on if the person had been distributing the substance. If found guilty on felonious charges, the individual could lose the ability to vote and later have trouble finding employment, especially after serving a prison sentence.

    At the moment, approximately 47 percent of inmates serving federal prison sentences are doing so on drug offenses, although most were involved with trafficking on some level.

    Some of the Most Common Legal Consequences of Addiction Are:

    • Large fines
    • Extensive jail sentences
    • Probation
    • Arrest records that make it difficult to find a job
    • Driver’s license suspension and transportation difficulty
    • Strict community service requirements
    • Restrictions on living in certain communities

    On a related note, addiction also has a major impact on the user’s financial situation. Consistent drug or alcohol abuse generally brings a price tag in the thousands on an annual basis. The individual may rack up debt, and may suffer setbacks along the way such as divorce, home foreclosure and vehicle repossession. If the user ends up losing a job or getting arrested as a product of the addiction, the financial woes pile up even further.

    See More Legal & Financial Effects of Addiction

    Contact our experts today for more details on what our treatment centers have to offer.

    Contact our experts today for more details on what our treatment centers have to offer.

    Social Effects of Addiction

    Addiction is hard to hide. As chronic substance abuse continues, it will affect almost every aspect of the user’s life. Their ability to concentrate may be diminished, their mood may fluctuate, and their interests will likely change as drug cravings become compulsive.

    Drug or alcohol addiction usually causes tension among a family, if not an outright rift, even if the user hides their substance intake well. Friendship dynamics often change as well, as non-users will increasingly find less in common with (and struggle to enjoy the company of) friends who continuously use. Soon enough, an addict may only find comfort when around other people who abuse substance.

    In other cases, the addict’s social circle may shrink to the point where he or she continues to abuse substances on an individual basis, with very little human contact in between. Loneliness can obviously set in, and mental health conditions like depression or social anxiety can develop. The worst-case scenario in this situation is the lonely person is at risk for suicide, and he or she may try to overdose on purpose.

    Addiction May Negatively Affect One’s Life Through:

    • Job loss
    • Relationship changes between both friends and family members
    • Aggression toward friends and family members
    • Divorce
    • Suspension or expulsion from organized activities, such as sports teams

    Addiction almost always harms the user’s personal and professional life. Mood swings can become unpredictable and hard to control, and other health issues such as chronic fatigue can make it hard to function in many facets of society.

    alcohol detox treatment

    Also worth noting is most addicted individuals have to lie and steal in order to continue their substance usage. Many addicts also turn to maxing out their credit cards, gambling or asking others for money so they can buy more drugs or alcohol. Some even begin selling drugs to support their own habit. This brings us back to the endless legal and financial consequences that are common with addiction.

    Besides overdosing, teens who abuse substances are also at an increased risk of death through:

    • Suicide
    • Homicide
    • Accident
    • Grave illness

    According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), most people use drugs for the first time in their adolescent years, and drug use (by percentage) is highest among people in their late-teens or 20s. On the bright side, underage drinking (including binge drinking) and cigarette smoking has declined noticeably from 2002 to 2013.

    Addiction Treatment at Serenity at Summit

    Are you or a loved one currently struggling with addiction to alcohol or drugs? Get help now before one of the worst-case scenarios happens.

    The first step in addiction treatment is often medical detox, especially when it comes to alcohol, heroin, meth, cocaine and many prescription drugs. Serenity at Summit is one of the Northeast’s emerging providers of drug and alcohol addiction treatment. We currently operate two first-class facilities for drug and alcohol detox, with a plethora of residential and outpatient treatment options to follow – six facilities in total.

    Located in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, Serenity at Summit is ready to help you before irreparable legal consequences or the next overdose impacts your life. Click on the button immediately below to get started wtih our detox services.

    Detox Treatment at Summit

    Call Serenity at Summit or a Confidential Assessment Today. 844-326-4514