Commonly Used Addictive Drugs

Addict in interview

Drug addiction can be identified by its consequences, effects, and physical indicators.

Drug addiction is a complex problem involving both the mind and the body. It is the result of the repeated and escalating use of one or more mind-altering substances despite suffering an increasing number of consequences.

On the surface, addiction may not look the same in every person. The severity of the consequences, amount of drugs being used, and the length of time one is addicted result in circumstances that can often look drastically different. From the person who “just” drinks a few beers at night “to relax,” to the individual who uses cocaine on the weekends, to the person who shoots heroin every day, the severity of addiction is all that separates them.

What are the Consequences of Drug Use?

Drug use results in a number of consequences affecting both the mind and the body. Consequences to a user’s relationships, career, groups, financial situation, and legal situation are all commonly seen in even mild cases of drug addiction. Perhaps a possible way to determine the severity of addiction is then to look at the number and severity of the consequences the individual has faced as a result of using the substance.

Consequences on the Body

Patient in a hospital

The list of consequences of drug use on the body is extensive. The physical consequences vary depending on the substance being used, the amount used, and the length of time used. The ultimate consequence of addiction is death. Every year, tens of thousands of people in the U.S. alone lose their lives from drug-related causes. For example, in 2018, 67,367 people died from drug overdoses in the United States.

Drug use affects the body in other ways, too. Drug use and infectious diseases often go hand in hand. For example, IV drug use is commonly associated with other health complications such as HIV and Hepatitis C.

Consequences on the Mind

Puzzled addict

Drug use significantly hampers one’s judgment, emotions, and cognitive ability. People who use drugs often make poor decisions. They take unnecessary risks, experience emotional outbursts, and lie and manipulate. They can become so dependent on substances that the majority of their thoughts revolve around finding ways and means to continue their drug use, often neglecting even the most basic life functions, such as eating, bathing and child care.

Consequences on Relationships

Aggressive girlfriend

When people use drugs, their relationships suffer. Family members and loved ones are often the first to notice the horrific consequences of addiction. Through neglect and dishonesty addicts typically push every positive influence in their life away, over time appearing to sacrifice everything to continue using the drug. Marriages are destroyed, children are neglected, siblings are ignored, and parents are manipulated and abused.

Consequences on Work

Drinking at work

No matter what the job, drug use results in a significant decrease in productivity. Any business employing someone using drugs is likely to suffer from a significant drain on the company’s resources.

Drug use significantly impacts an individual’s ability to work, and such use poses a risk to other employees and customers. Drug and alcohol abuse causes about 65 percent of on-the-job accidents. Consequently, most employers have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to failing drug tests.

Consequences on Financial Conditions

An addict is stealing in a house

Drugs and alcohol do not come cheap. As addiction progresses, the individual will need more and more of the substance to experience the same effects. On top of joblessness, addicts often suffer financially, just from trying to afford their drug of choice.

In addition to the price of the drugs themselves, addicts face an expensive dilemma. In the world of addiction personal property is pawned, cars are wrecked and possessions are stolen. This adds to the already substantial cost of addiction.

Consequences on Legal Conditions

Police arresting a drug addict

People who use drugs and alcohol often find themselves on the wrong side of the law because of a range of consequences from DUIs to drug possession charges. Incarceration, probation and other legal issues often plague those using drugs and alcohol.

While a lucky few can afford lawyers, bail bonds, other legal fees as well as drug and alcohol treatment, many addicts are left to withdraw in jail, only to repeat the cycle again when released. Interaction with law enforcement often results in consequences which can last a lifetime.

Felony convictions, prison sentences and arrests can follow the addict for years, often even after the individual has stopped using drugs. This affects the person’s ability to find work, attend school, get bank loans and rent property. This has a further detrimental effect on the addict’s chances of recovery.

What Are the Health Effects of Drug Use?

Drug use has both short and long term effects. Different substances will have different effects, but all mind-altering drugs pose threats to the user’s health.

In the short term, drug users may experience changes in respiratory function, increased or slowed heart rate and blood pressure, mood changes, heart attack, stroke, overdose, psychosis, and even death.

The long term effects are equally severe. Such effects include lung disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS, liver damage, incontinence, loss of bodily control, and deterioration of cognitive ability. Furthermore, the longer one uses drugs, the more difficult it will be to come off of them and the more permanent and serious the effects on the body become.

What Are the Indicators of Addiction?

For our purposes, indicators of addiction are signs which can be used to predict and detect drug use in an individual or group. While not every indicator fits into a rigid category, there are three general groups that make it easier to understand what to look for: behavioral, physical and environmental.

Behavioral indicators can include:

  • Absence from school or work
  • Unexplained financial problems
  • Secretive or deceptive behavior
  • Changes in friends and social groups
  • Frequently getting into trouble
  • Unfulfilled obligations

Physical indicators can include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Deterioration of personal grooming habits
  • Body odor
  • Tremors
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired coordination

Environmental indicators can include:

  • Presence of drug paraphernalia
  • Broken personal belongings
  • Dirty and unkempt personal possessions
  • Cluttered living areas
  • Obvious signs of theft and neglect of property
  • Accidental fires
  • Cigarette burns in furniture, clothing and carpet

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