The consequences of addiction go far beyond things like strained relationships and health risks. In fact, studies show how addiction leads to all sorts of unsavory consequences. The addiction epidemic remains the root of the crisis with no meaningful end in sight. Even in 2010, well before the opioid epidemic, the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that more than half of the homeless population was either in the throes of addiction, mentally ill or both.
It should be obvious that if an addict is discharged from prison with no family or support system in place, he or she will wind up on the streets.
More than 60% of addicts eventually have a criminal conviction. In prison, roughly half of all inmates fit the criteria for being considered “clinically addicted.” This can range from a DUI (or multiple DUIs), drug charges including possession, distribution or even theft to get money for drugs. Criminal convictions can have far reaching consequences into your sober years, limiting job opportunities and even getting accepted for certain types of housing. Any potential spouse will surely have an opinion on one’s criminal conviction. Unfortunately, prison falls very short when it comes to preventing recidivism in former inmates coping with addiction. Out of a given population of newly-released prison inmates with addictions about 95% of former inmates go back to using drugs after release; between 60 and 80% will commit a new drug-related crime. This is largely because prison is not designed to competently treat addiction and crime — while inmates may be punished for the crimes they have committed, there is little hope of the root causes of their crimes being addressed. As a result, many addicts that end up in prison will find themselves turning into career criminals with untreated addictions.
The health considerations are many. Addiction leads to serious long-term effects including organ damage and weakened immunity. In addition to the numerous mental health issues that spring up as a result of long-term drug addiction, there are also a number of issues affecting the physical health of the individual who is abusing drugs over a sustained period of time. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), long-term drug abuse can affect:
- The kidneys. The human kidney can be damaged both directly and indirectly by habitual drug use over a period of many years. Abusing certain substances can cause dehydration, muscle breakdown, and increased body temperature—all of which contribute to kidney damage over time. Kidney failure is not uncommon among long-time users of heroin, MDMA, ketamine, and other dangerous drugs.
- The liver. Liver failure is a well-known consequence of alcoholism, but it also can occur with individuals using opioids, steroids, inhalants, or DXM habitually over many years. The liver is important for clearing toxins from the bloodstream, and chronic substance abuse can overwork this vital organ, leading to damage from chronic inflammation, scarring, tissue necrosis, and even cancer, in some instances. The liver may be even more at risk when multiple substances are used in combination.
- The heart. Many drugs have the potential to cause cardiovascular issues, which can range from increased heart rate and blood pressure to aberrant cardiac rhythms and myocardial infarction (i.e., heart attack). Injection drug users are also at risk of collapsed veins and bacterial infections in the bloodstream or heart.
- The lungs. The respiratory system can suffer damage related to smoking or inhaling drugs, such as marijuana and crack cocaine. In addition to this kind of direct damage, drugs that slow a person’s breathing, such as heroin or prescription opioids, can cause serious complications for the user.
Tolerance is dangerous as it causes the individual to use more and more of a drug in order to achieve the desired euphoric or stimulated state. This puts the individual at an elevated risk for overdose and even death. In addition, yolerance to pain medications can have debilitating effects later in life