Effects of Drug Use & Addiction

Drugs are chemicals. Different drugs, because of their chemical structures, can affect the body in different ways.

Depending on the drug, it can enter the human body in a number of ways, including injection, inhalation, and ingestion. The method of how it enters the body impacts on how the drug affects the person. For example: injection takes the drug directly into the blood stream, providing more immediate effects; while ingestion requires the drug to pass through the digestive system, delaying the effects.

Most drugs directly or indirectly target the brain’s reward system by flooding the circuit with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, cognition, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. When drugs enter the brain, they can actually change how the brain performs its jobs. These changes are what lead to compulsive drug use, the hallmark of addiction.

Drugs don’t just hurt the person taking them. Everyone connected to the person can get hurt:

  • husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends
  • teens, children, babies
  • other family members and friends

Drug use can hurt people at any age, from any background, rich or poor.

Drug use can cause many problems:

  • fighting and violence inside and outside the home
  • money problems
  • trouble at school
  • trouble at work, losing a job
  • trouble in relationships
  • child abuse, neglect
  • driving accidents
  • arrests and jail

Health risks

More deaths, illnesses and disabilities stem from substance abuse than from any other preventable health condition.

A variety of health risks are associated with taking drugs, drug use can:

  • weaken the immune system, increasing susceptibility to infections.
  • cause cardiovascular conditions ranging from abnormal heart rate to heart attacks.
  • cause nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
  • cause the liver to have to work harder, possibly causing significant damage or liver failure.
  • cause seizures, stroke and widespread brain damage that can impact all aspects of daily life by causing problems with memory, attention and decision-making, including sustained mental confusion and permanent brain damage.
  • produce global body changes such as breast development in men, dramatic fluctuations in appetite and increases in body temperature, which may impact a variety of health conditions.
  • injected drugs can lead to collapsed veins and infections of the blood vessels /heart valves and the spread of blood-borne diseases.

Effects On The Brain

  • Although initial drug use may be voluntary, drugs have been shown to alter brain chemistry, which interferes with an individual’s ability to make decisions and can lead to compulsive craving, seeking and use. This then becomes a substance dependency.
  • All drugs of use – nicotine, cocaine, marijuana, and others – effect the brain’s “reward” circuit, which is part of the limbic system.
  • Drugs hijack this “reward” system, causing unusually large amounts of dopamine to flood the system.
  • This flood of dopamine is what causes the “high” or euphoria associated with drug abuse.

Behavioral Problems

  • Paranoia
  • Aggressiveness
  • Hallucinations
  • Addiction
  • Impaired Judgment
  • Impulsiveness
  • Loss of Self-Control