Individuals who abuse drugs or alcohol don't realize that when they abuse they substances they are putting themselves at risk of serious side effects, some of which can be life threatening. All that an addict is concerned about is getting high or experiencing the effects of their drug of choice as often as possible. As a result of the side effects of drug addiction, individuals who abuse drugs and alcohol are constantly compromising their own health and well being. Some of the side effects of drug addiction can affect an individual for short period of time, or more long term. This really depends on their history of drug use and which drugs they have been using. In the end, most long-term drug addicts and alcoholics will end up with chronic illness, chronic pain or may even lose their lives to addiction.
Someone who doesn't use drugs may ask themselves why an individual would put themselves at risk of side effects just to get a high or quick fix. To answer this question, one would have to understand how drugs affect the individual physically and psychologically. When someone takes a drug, it directly affects the reward center of the brain. This area of the brain produces the "feel good" chemicals in the body that let someone know when they are doing a rewarding activity or taking something that will result pleasure or euphoria. The brain is wired this way for a reason, and reacts this way to exercise and even food, not just drugs. Drugs create such a powerful effect on the individual however, much more powerful that a jog or piece of chocolate, and the individual will choose to do drugs instead of anything else.
So when an individual uses heroin for example, this area of the brain releases powerful chemicals which makes the individual feel the intense euphoria and calming feeling that is unique to a heroin high. The urge to experience this high becomes constant, not just psychologically but physically. An individual will crave more of the drug until they use it again. If the individual does not take more of the drug, the body responds with negative sensations and emotions which are typically the exact opposite of the desired effects. This is known as drug withdrawal syndrome. To stop withdrawal symptoms, all an individual has to do is take more of the drug. And this is the cycle of addiction why it is so hard to quit despite the negative consequences, and why individuals use drugs despite the negative consequences and side effects. Some of the side effects of drug addiction are physical, and some are psychological and even social.
The side effects of alcoholism can be especially dangerous. Alcohol is responsible for an estimated twenty to thirty percent of cancer of the liver cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, epilepsy, homicide/murders, esophagus cancer, and motor vehicle accidents worldwide each year. An estimated 1.8 million deaths each year are directly attributable to alcohol consumption. In the US alone, alcohol is responsible for over 17,000 deaths on the roads due to individuals driving while under the influence of alcohol, accounting for 41% of all road accidents in the nation. Long-term excessive alcohol abuse can also cause pancreatitis, which can be fatal. Excessive alcohol use has also been known to cause immune system problems and brain damage. Unfortunately, over 13 million people in the U.S. alone have problems with alcohol, including 8.1 million people who suffer from alcoholism. So this problem is vast, and many individuals will die as a result of the side effects of alcoholism this year.
Additionally, individuals who try and quit drinking alcohol on their own run serious risks due to side effects which are associated with alcohol withdrawal. More serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms can result from long-term heavy alcohol use or serious binge-drinking which are especially dangerous if not medically treated. During alcohol withdrawal, individuals may experience what is known as delirium tremens, also known as DT's. Once delirium tremens symptoms set in, there is nothing medically that can be done. Heart attacks, grand mal seizures, and stroke can happen during delirium tremens. Due to this side effect of alcoholism, an estimated 20% of alcoholics who try to quit drinking on their own without medical assistance die of alcohol withdrawal delirium.
Some of the more serious side effects of drugs addiction are as a result of intravenous drug use. Over 13 million people administer recreational and illicit drugs by use of a needle. Injection is a favored method because the effects of the drug can be experienced almost instantly. If someone swallows a drug it can take a while for effects to set it, as it has to be digested in the stomach and metabolized by certain organs in the body. When someone administers a drug intravenously, they will also typically experience a more intense high from the same amount of the drug than if someone were to take the drug orally. Examples of drugs which can be administered intravenously are heroin, meth, cocaine, and some prescription drugs which can be dissolved and injected such as OxyContin or Vicodin.
Individuals who inject drugs in this manner put themselves at risk of serious side effects for a variety of reasons. First off, it can be difficult for drug users to get their hands on a needle, and many users share their needles and shoot up together. Or, if an individual does use a needle on one's own, they use it over and over again until it becomes more and more dull which can result in physical harm. As a result, an intravenous drug user is putting themselves at risk of contracting HIV among other type of blood borne viruses such as Hepatitis which have no cure, and can result in serious illness and death. Intravenous drug use can also result in scarring of skin and veins, due to the dull needle that is used. Intravenous drug use can result in collapsed veins and veins which can become fragile and rupture, potentially resulting in hemorrhage, a lack of oxygen to that area of the body resulting in tissue decay, and gangrene. Some injectable drugs may be impure, and can contain substances that won't dissolve in water. Injecting these particles can block small blood vessels which can result in lung problems, kidney damage, and strokes.
Snorting drugs is another way that individuals put themselves at risk of experiencing unwanted and dangerous side effects of drug addiction. Examples of drugs which can be snorted are cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, meth and many diverted pharmaceutical drugs such as amphetamines and stimulants. Like injection, snorting is a favored method of administration of drugs due to the rapid onset of effects and quick absorption into the bloodstream through the mucus membranes in the sinus cavity. One of the most common side effects of using drugs in this way is that it can eventually destroy the nasal septum. This can occur because of constant irritation of the nasal cavity due to constant drug use, or because some drugs contain highly toxic substances which can wear away at the nasal cavity over time. A nasal septum which has been compromised as a result of the side effects of drug addiction can result in crusting, blood discharge, difficulty breathing, nasal pressure and discomfort.
A common side effect of long-term use of methamphetamines is what is commonly known as "meth mouth". Meth mouth happens because of the ingredients contained in the drug, as well as the lack of care that individuals take in regards to the health and teeth when using the drug. Meth's ingredients are corrosive to teeth and contain ingredients such as battery acid, lantern fuel, antifreeze, hydrochloric acid and drain cleaner. A common side effect of meth is that users tend to clench and grind their teeth which results in further tooth and enamel damage. Methamphetamines also dry up protective saliva around the teeth. This combination of factors often results in such bad tooth decay, that many individuals who use meth and develop this extent of decay in their mouths lose most if not all of their teeth. Meth users also commonly experience the side effect of hallucinations, which makes them think they have bugs or other imaginary things on their skin or bodies. So they will pick and itch at these hallucinations, causing huge sores and lesions in their skin which get infected and scar.
Marijuana is commonly thought of as one of the less harmful recreational drugs. However, marijuana use results in many unwanted side effects, some of which can be life threatening. For example, marijuana can impair decision making and judgment, which can lead to questionable sexual behavior resulting in exposure to STDs like HIV. Marijuana use can also play a role in some kinds of cancer and in problems with the respiratory and immune systems. This is primarily due to the fact that marijuana smoke contains some of the same, and sometimes even more, of the cancer-causing chemicals than are found in tobacco smoke. Individuals who smoke five marijuana cigarettes a day are exposing themselves to the same amount of carcinogens of a pack a day cigarette smoker.
Aside from the physical side effects which can experienced as a result of marijuana use, the active ingredient in the drug, THC, has been shown to interfere with learning and memory because of its effects on the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain which plays a critical role in certain types of learning. Therefore, using marijuana can lead to problems studying, learning new things, and recalling recent events. THC also interferes with a part of the brain called the cerebellum, which controls balance and coordination, as well as the basal ganglia, a part of the brain that is involved in movement control. Studies have shown that anywhere from four to fourteen percent of drivers that were injured or died in traffic accidents had positive THC tests, the active ingredient in marijuana. Long-term marijuana users also report social side effects and consequences as a result of use of the drug, including less life satisfaction, poorer education, and job achievement, and more interpersonal and mental health problems compared to non-users.
Ecstasy is another drug which is commonly abused, but is considered by recreational drug users to be less addictive and dangerous. However, ecstasy is a very dangerous drug or abuse and individuals who use the drug are putting themselves at risk of serious side effects, some of which can be life threatening. One of the most common side effects of ecstasy use is effect on memory and cognitive function. Studies have brought to light ecstasy use can actually cause brain damage, and exposure to the drug for just a short amount of time can result in damage to brain function which is still evident 6 to 7 years later. Because of the areas of the brain that are affected by ecstasy use, chronic ecstasy users often struggle with depression, memory loss, anxiety, and other psychological damage.
Some of the most detrimental side effects of ecstasy use are caused by the physical effects that ecstasy has on the body. Because ecstasy can interfere with the body's ability to regulate temperature, this overheating can result in hyperthermia which can lead to serious heart and kidney problems, and even death. High levels of Ecstasy in the blood stream can increase the user's risk of seizures as well as the ability of the heart to maintain its normal rhythms. Ecstasy users typically use the drug in combinations with other drugs or alcohol, which may further increase the negative effects of the drug or even death.
Drug users are constantly putting themselves at risk of side effects of drug addiction every time they use drugs. Some of these side effects are physical and psychological, but many are even social. One should consider the disastrous side effects of drug addiction to one's family, one's job, and one's dreams for a happy life. Many children have to experience these side effects, and even lose their parents or other loved ones to drugs or alcohol, and this can affect them for the rest of their lives.