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The Health Risks of Addiction
Addiction is a disease characterized by the inability to stop using a substance or engaging in a specific behavior. Addiction usually leads to a variety of negative psychological, physiological, and personal consequences. The specific results of addiction depend on the nature of the addiction.
Misusing addictive substances can result in a number of physical complications. Physical complications can happen suddenly, as with accidents, or they can develop slowly over time.
- Direct physical results may include illnesses and specific cancers, such as lung cancer for tobacco addiction or cheek and gum cancer for smokeless tobacco users.
- Physical complications can also include injuries stemming from situations caused by intoxication or drug use, such as falling or driving while under the influence of drugs.
- Violent reactions are another physical risk of some substances; people may engage in confrontational behavior that leads to fights and injuries.
- An overdose is a significant risk. Coma and death are common results of drug overdoses.
- Pregnant women who abuse addictive substances can cause fetal damage and death.
- Cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and heart attacks are risks of some addictions, including tobacco and other drugs. Drug abuse can put a dangerous strain on the heart and blood vessels, requiring ongoing health care.
- Addicts may sacrifice good nutrition as they become dependent on substances. Some people stop caring about eating, or they may choose to spend their money on drugs or alcohol instead of food.
- Lack of hygiene is a telltale sign of addiction, as the pursuit of the substance takes over and the addict stops taking care of their personal hygiene.
- An addict might even become homeless as a result of addiction, which can lead to exposure to dangerous weather.
Psychological complications can include potentially debilitating mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Sometimes using drugs leads to these symptoms, and sometimes addiction can make existing mental health issues worse.
- Using drugs changes a person’s brain chemistry, so an addict actually thinks differently.
- Drugs can cause hallucinations, which could even be part of a drug-induced psychosis.
- Prolonged substance use may also result in feelings of guilt, shame, and restlessness.
- Loneliness is also common for people who struggle with addiction, usually because they push others away from them.
- People who misuse opiates have a higher than average rate of suicide.
- Some addicts use substances such as heroin to attempt suicide.
Addiction often has a profound impact on personal relationships, especially relationships with the closest family members and friends. These interpersonal issues can then worsen physical or psychological complications.
- An addicted person usually begins having trouble keeping obligations and handling responsibilities, which causes trouble with family and friends. Spouses and dependent children often bear the brunt of an addict’s mishandled responsibilities.
- Maintaining an addiction can be expensive, which often causes financial problems. As an addiction progresses, the addict may have trouble managing professional responsibilities, which can lead to job loss, which can also mean the loss of health insurance. An addict might also have trouble with debt. For example, someone addicted to gambling or shopping may amass unpaid bills, which can cause credit problems or lead to bankruptcy.
- Drug addiction often involves illegal drugs. Purchasing and possessing these substances can lead to arrest and incarceration.
- Drug addiction may also lead people to commit crimes to fund their habit, which can also lead to arrest and incarceration.
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a crime, and arrest is common.
- Arrest and incarceration can also lead to job loss.
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- Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health
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