What are the effects of addiction?

People who are addicted usually have one or more associated health problems, which may include lung or heart disease, stroke, cancer, or mental health conditions. Imaging tomography, chest x-rays, and blood tests can show the harmful effects of long-term drug use throughout the body. There are several ways a person can take medicines, including injecting, inhaling, and ingesting. The effects of the drug on the body may depend on how the medication is administered.

For example, injecting drugs directly into the bloodstream has an immediate impact, while ingestion has a delayed effect. However, all drugs that are misused affect the brain. They cause large amounts of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate our emotions, motivation and feelings of pleasure, to flood the brain and produce a “high”. Over time, drugs can change the way the brain works and interfere with a person's ability to make decisions, leading to intense cravings and compulsive drug use.

Over time, this behavior can develop into substance dependence or drug addiction. Today, more than 7 million people suffer from an illicit drug-related disorder and one in four deaths is due to the use of illicit drugs. In fact, there are more deaths, illnesses, and disabilities associated with drug abuse than with any other preventable health condition. People who are addicted to drugs and alcohol are also at greater risk of suffering unintentional injuries, accidents, and incidents of domestic violence.

Clinically known as substance use disorder, drug abuse or addiction is caused by the regular intake of addictive substances. Drugs include alcohol, marijuana, hallucinogens, and opioids. Substance use disorder is a disease that causes people to use drugs compulsively despite the consequences. All drugs (nicotine, cocaine, marijuana, and others) affect the brain's “reward circuit”, which is part of the limbic system.

This area of the brain affects instinct and mood. Drugs attack this system, causing large amounts of dopamine, a brain chemical that helps regulate emotions and feelings of pleasure, to flood the brain. This rush of dopamine is what causes a “high”. It is one of the main causes of drug addiction.

While initial drug use may be voluntary, medications can alter brain chemistry. This can actually change how the brain works and interfere with a person's ability to make decisions. It can cause intense cravings and compulsive drug use. Over time, this behavior can develop into a substance dependence or an addiction to drugs and alcohol.

See why Newsweek named us one of the top addiction treatment centers in the United States for the second year in a row. Some of the short-term effects of drug abuse and addiction include changes in appetite, movement, speech, mood, and cognitive function. Long-term effects may include significant organ damage, cognitive impairment, memory loss, overdose, and death. Regular intake of a substance can also cause physical harm, depending on the type of medication.

Some substances cause withdrawal symptoms that include many physical effects, such as tremors, sweating, or nausea.