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Effects of Drug Addiction (physical and psychological)

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The definition of drug addiction refers to the obsessive and repeated use of dangerous amounts of drugs and the appearance of withdrawal symptoms when not using drugs. The effects of drug addiction seen, due to this compulsion, are wide-ranging and profound. Effects of drug addiction are felt by the addict both physically and psychologically. The effects are also seen in those around the addict, like family members.

The effects of drug addiction also include the cost to the justice and health care systems. Violent behavior is most closely tied to alcohol use and alcohol abuse is responsible for the disability of 58.3 million people worldwide.1 It was estimated the effects of drug addiction cost the U.S. $245.7 billion in 1992. This number represents health care expenses, lost wages, prevention program costs and criminal justice system costs, among others.2

Psychological Effects of Drug Addiction

There are physical effects of drug addiction and psychological effects of drug addiction. Each effect of drug addiction can be harmful to the addict or others.The psychological effects of drug addiction come from the reason the user is addicted to drugs, as well as the changes that take place in the brain once a person becomes a drug addict. Initially, many people start using drugs to cope with stress or pain (read about: what causes drug addiction) An effect of drug addiction is creation of a cycle where anytime the user encounters stress or pain, they feel the need to use the drug. This is one of the psychological effects of drug addiction involved in "craving" of the drug. Craving is an effect of drug addiction whereby the addict is obsessed with obtaining and using the drug, to the exclusion of all else. One of the psychological effects of addiction involved in craving is the belief the addict cannot function or handle life without use of the drug.

Other psychological effects of drug addiction include:3

  • Wild mood swings, depression, anxiety, paranoia, violence
  • Decrease in pleasure in everyday life
  • Complication of mental illness
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Psychological tolerance to the drug's effects creating a desire to do ever-increasing amounts of the drug
  • Desire to engage in risky behavior

Physical Effects of Drug Addiction

Physical effects of drug addiction vary by drug but are typically seen in all systems of the body. Some of the primary physical effects of drug addiction take place in the brain. Drug addiction changes the way the brain functions and impacts how the body perceives pleasure. These effects of drug addiction are because the drug repeatedly floods the brain with the chemicals dopamine and serotonin during drug use. The brain adapts and comes to expect, and depend on, these drug-induces highs.

Physical effects of drug addiction are also seen in babies of drug abusers as well as in mortality statistics. One effect of drug addiction is: children born to drug-using mothers can be cognitively affected throughout life. Regarding mortality, one-in-four deaths are due to the effects of drug addiction.4 Other physical effects of drug addiction include:

  • Contraction of HIV, hepatitis and other illnesses
  • Heart rate irregularities, heart attack
  • Respiratory problems such as lung cancer, emphysema and breathing problems
  • Abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea
  • Kidney and liver damage
  • Seizures, stroke, brain damage
  • Changes in appetite, body temperature and sleeping patterns

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