There is no doubt that addiction creates havoc and turmoil in people’s lives. Understanding the consequences that arise from addictive behavior can go a long way into finding the necessary resources to get help. Not only does addiction negatively affect a person physically, mentally, and emotionally, but addiction can also have damaging consequences in other major life areas.
Addiction is a disease. One that is complicating and creates the inability to stop taking a substance or carrying out a particular damaging behavior. When a person is during addiction, that person cannot control how they take a substance and they become dependent on it to cope with daily life. Once that happens, all areas of daily living become affected and without appropriate treatment, major problems arise, and life becomes unmanageable.
Addictive behavior creates problems physically. When a person overuses mood-altering or mind-altering chemicals it can damage the body in several ways. For example, someone who develops the habit of snorting cocaine through the nose can damage the nasal cartilage. A person addicted to opiates can develop an opiate-induced constipation which can be fatal if that person does not receive treatment. Smoking methamphetamine can lead to a severe form of dental decay known as “meth mouth”. In addition to these complications, addictive behavior can cause injury. This can happen during the administration of the drug. For example, if a person injects heroin using a needle the muscles and skin at the injection site can develop abscesses and other infections. Injuries can also take place while under the influence. Drug and alcohol use can create impairments in coordination and balance.
Addictive behavior can create problems psychologically. A person suffering from depression or anxiety may find that addiction to drugs or alcohol intensifies those feelings. Addiction can alter the way a person thinks because drug use can change the circuitry of the brain. Many drugs can directly create hallucinations and to longer-term psychological effects that could develop into severe mental health problems. Long-term use of LSD, for example, could lead someone to be out of touch with reality and lead that person to a drug-induced psychosis.
Addictive behavior can create problems emotionally. A recent study linked an extended period of addiction (years) to several different substances to increased levels of depression. Prolonged substance use can also lead to anxiety, shame, restlessness, and guilt. Addicts also tend to push away the people closest to them. This can remove or drastically reduce a person’s support network when they need it the most. The most extreme case is perhaps suicide. A study that took place in 2015 showed that people who misuse opiates are six times more likely to commit suicide that people that do not. Deaths by suicide were two to three times higher in people who had a dependency for opiates.
Addictive behavior can create problems socially. For the addict, attempting to obtain the drug and/or engaging into the addictive behavior takes precedence of family and friends. Birthday parties, children’s sporting events, school extracurricular activities,
and family gathering are often not attended because the addict is more focused on continuing the addictive behavior. An addict can also soon experience the loss of friends. At first, they might not be bothered by the addict’s drug use, although they might not want to use with the addict. After a while that may change because they may not enjoy the addict’s company and may not want to associate with someone who uses drugs. An addictive lifestyle often causes relationships to be strained. Emotions can run high in the relationships which may lead some people to cut ties with the addict because of the addict’s behavior. Eventually, the addict will be spending more time alone or with other people who use.
Addictive behavior can create problems educationally. Getting drunk while in school can negatively impact cognitive functioning (attention, concentration, memory) for up to 48 hours. After a night of drinking, a student may have such a high blood alcohol content that it could influence whether they attend school the next day. And if they do decide to attend school. The quality of information they hope to process, and store is poor. When a student uses marijuana in the evening, it can have the same impact on sleep that alcohol can have. It can throw off the sleep cycle and influence how a person can feel for a couple of days. Marijuana use can also create a suppression of neuronal activity that leads to problems with attentiveness, memory, and concentration.
Addictive behavior can create problems financially. Habits become expensive to maintain. Addiction is a disease that is progressive. As the tolerance of the substance being used increases, people will have to use more of the drug to get the high they are looking for. So, this can cause problems exponentially to just support the habit. Financial problems come about through neglect and false priorities. Not only can addictive behavior drain your bank account, because addiction hijacks the reward system in the brain an addict finds it difficult to find motivation to do things, they had no problem doing before. There is no internal satisfaction towards things like finding a job, paying bills, and saving up for a family dream vacation. Meeting financial obligations tend to fall by the wayside and addicts are often find themselves caught under a pile of financial penalties and other unexpected costs.
Addictive behavior can lead to problems legally. Many drugs are illicit and even being in possession of them can lead to an arrest. But people may also resort to criminal activity to fund their addiction. According to The Center on Addiction, 1.5 million inmates met the DSM-IV medical criteria for substance abuse or addiction. Another 458,000 inmates, though not meeting the medical criteria, had a history of substance abuse, were under the influence at the time of committing the crime, committed the crime to get money to purchase drugs, were arrested for an alcohol, or drug law violation, or had any combination of these. Having endured legal consequences can also create difficulty in obtaining a job. Many employers perform background checks on potential employees to make sure their new hires are free of legal liabilities and issues. A person with a drug conviction on the legal record could be a red flag for potential employers.
Overcoming addiction will be challenging. Also challenging is understanding and utilizing the traits that may help in the journey toward living a positive life. These traits include courage, interpersonal skills, rationality, insight, optimism, honesty, perseverance, finding purpose, and future-mindedness. One needs to be willing to put forth the effort to work through enormous amounts of trial and error and invest large amounts of time and energy. If a person has a sincere desire to change and is willing to make the sacrifices needed, that person can succeed.