It’s generally well known that substance abuse can ruin your life. But are you aware of what it can do to your body? Drugs are chemicals. Different drugs, because of their chemical structures, can affect the body in different ways. In fact, some drugs can even change a person’s body and brain in ways that last long after the person has stopped taking drugs, maybe even permanently.
What is Substance Addiction?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) points out that drug addiction is a brain disease. Although initial drug use might be voluntary, they tell us that drugs of abuse have been shown to alter gene expression and brain circuitry, which in turn affect human behavior. Once addiction develops, these brain changes interfere with an individual’s ability to make voluntary decisions, leading to compulsive drug craving, seeking and use.
Suffering the Physical Consequences of Substance Abuse
According to NIDA, the impact of addiction on our health can be far-reaching. Cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and lung disease can all be caused by drug abuse. Although some of these results occur when drugs are used at high doses or after prolonged use, some may present themselves after just one use.
Drug abuse and alcoholism can affect almost every organ in the human body, including:
- Weakening the immune system, thereby increasing susceptibility to infections
- Cardiovascular conditions ranging from abnormal heart rate to heart attacks
- Injected drugs can cause collapsed veins and infections of the blood vessels and heart valves
- Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain
- Make the liver have to work harder, possibly causing significant damage or liver failure
- Cause seizures, stroke and widespread, possibly permanent, brain damage
- Increases in body temperature, which may impact a variety of health conditions
Consequences for Others in Substance Abuse
The consequences of drug abuse are not limited to the user. The full extent of the consequences of prenatal drug exposure on a child is not known. However, studies show that various drugs of abuse may result in premature birth, miscarriage, low birth weight and a variety of behavioral and cognitive problems. Life threatening health problems suffered by the drug addicted expectant mother can also be passed to an unborn baby.
Taking drugs during pregnancy also increases the chance of birth defects and stillborn births. In addition, some findings show that babies born to women who use cocaine or alcohol when they are pregnant may have brain structure changes that persist into early adolescence.
While cocaine’s effects are usually immediate, the effect it can have on a fetus may last a lifetime. Babies born to mothers who smoke crack cocaine during pregnancy usually have their own set of physical and mental problems. As stated by NIDA, exposure to cocaine in the womb can lead to significant deficits in children, such as cognitive performance, information processing and attention to tasks. These are areas that are vital for success not just in school, but in life.