Addiction is a chronic disease that affects the mind and body. It is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain that initiate a physical longing or compulsion for a specific substance or behavior.
Addictions most commonly develop into stimuli that influence one’s mood, including substances like drugs and alcohol. When these substances are introduced to the bloodstream, they cause chemical reactions in the brain that interfere with normal communication and alter one’s perception of pleasure and pain.
These mood-changing benefits encourage prolonged use and binge behavior, but regular use of these substances can negatively affect the health of organs, muscles, blood cells and tissues in your body.
Health Effects of Drug Use
While considered a brain disease or a behavioral disorder, drug abuse health effects can also lead to physical damage of your body. Drugs interfere with brain circuitry and chemicals, potentially altering a person’s genetic framework and making it difficult for them to function without continued use of the substance.
Habitual drug use will often expose people to environmental dangers, which may increase their risk for diseases like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other infectious diseases.
Regular use of stimulants like cocaine or opioids like prescription narcotics and heroin can cause long-term health effects and damage to the:
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- Heart: Most recreational drug use is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
- Liver: Heroin, along with any inhalant drug or steroid can prompt significant damage to the liver.
- Kidney: The use of heroin and other psychoactive drugs can cause kidney damage and may result in the need for dialysis.
- Brain: Drug abuse leads to chemical alterations in the brain that can interfere with healthy pain and pleasure receptors, mental health, cognition and memory.
- Lungs: Smoking any substance significantly increases your risk for lung cancer.
Health Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Alcoholism is an addiction to alcohol, and it is one end of a spectrum of alcohol abuse. While not always indicative of addiction, binge drinking and social drinking behaviors can also negatively influence your health.
Heavy alcohol consumption will increase your risk for chronic health concerns like:
- Cancer including Throat, Liver, Breast, Colorectal and Esophageal Cancers
- Cardiovascular Disease, including Heart Attack and Stroke
- Cirrhosis of the Liver
- Nerve Damage
Alcohol health effects can impair judgment, which makes operating machinery, driving or engaging in other behaviors risky. Drinking heavily also weakens the immune system, and combined with impaired judgment may increase your risk for infection and sexually transmitted disease like HIV/AIDS.
Addiction and Withdrawal
When someone becomes addicted to a substance, their body becomes dependent on it. The removal of the substance causes the body to enter a period of physical withdrawal, which often involves symptoms like:
- Severe Headaches
- Muscle Tremors
In addition to the ways drug and alcohol abuse influence your health, physical addition can cause further damage to your mental and physical well-being. Financial distress, relationship trouble and job loss are common results of addiction, and these may lead to physical stress that puts you at risk for heart disease, headaches and hypertension. Addiction also increases your risk for mental health concerns like depression.
Continued use of drugs and alcohol and long-term struggle with addiction increases your risk for sudden death.