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.
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