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Substance Abuse and its Effects

Substance abuse

What is substance abuse?

Substance abuse can be defined as the excessive consumption of prescription medication or over-the-counter medication that is illegal or not supposed to be used for the purposes intended. The abuse of drugs can have negative effects on social, physical, emotional, and occupational aspects of life.

How does substance abuse work?

Various drugs have different effects on someone’s mental and physical health depending on the type of drug used, the quantity used, other substances a person may be using, as well as their health history.

Even when used in moderation or according to a prescription, drugs can still have effects on the human body and mind. In this case the effects would most likely be short term.

All misused drugs have an effect on the brain, but the effects that drugs have on the body can vary depending on how the drug was taken. Drugs can be taken in a few ways, this includes inhalation, ingestion and injection.

A “high” is created when the chemicals in drugs cause large amounts of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure as well as the regulation of our emotions and motivation, to flood to the brain. Drugs can eventually alter the way the brain functions and impair an individual’s ability to make choices, leading to intense cravings and compulsively abuse drugs. Drug addiction or substance dependency may develop from this behavior overtime.

Effects of short term substance abuse

Short term effects include a temporary sense of euphoria, insomnia, increased heart rate, changes in cognitive ability, and slurred speech. These are some of the physical effects, but substance abuse can affect much more than that.

For example, people with substance use disorder may experience an inability to stop using the drug, poor work or academic performance, increased impulsivity, noticeable changes in appearance such as extreme weight loss, and difficulty maintaining personal hygiene.

Effects of long term substance abuse

Over an extended period of time, drug abuse can have multiple long term health effects.

Chronic substance abuse can be defined as the continuation of substance abuse despite having an unresolved or recurrent physical or psychological problem likely caused or aggravated by the substance. In this case, in addition to experiencing drug cravings, a drug addict feels a strong desire or compulsion to use a specific substance.

Chronic drug use can lead to the alteration of a user’s brain function and structure, this can result in several long term psychological effects such as depression, anxiety, hallucinations, paranoia, increased aggression, and panic disorders. Longstanding drug use can also affect the user’s learning, memory, and concentration.

According to the type of drug and the duration of use, drug use has varying long-term physical effects. However, several chronic health conditions appear to be linked with chronic drugs use such as:

Cardiovascular disease

A stimulant such as cocaine or methamphetamine can damage the heart or blood vessels.

Using these drugs for a long time can cause coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, and heart attacks.

Respiratory problems

Chronic respiratory diseases and infections can be caused by drugs that are inhaled or smoked. By binding to the receptors in the central nervous system that control respiration, opioids slow down a person’s respiration.

These substances can cause heavy snoring or slow breathing as they weaken a person’s respiration. If these substances are taken in large dosages, or if they are taken with other drugs such as alcohol.

Kidney damage, liver disease, overdose

Kidney damage or failure can result from the abuse of ketamine, heroin, and synthetic cannabinoids. This happens because the substance abuse causes the kidneys to stop functioning properly therefore they stop filtering excess minerals and waste from a person’s blood.

Liver scarring, inflammation and even failure result from chronic alcohol and drug use and abuse.

Lastly, taking a large dosage of a drug or mixing multiple substances together can result in an overdose and possibly death.

Interested in learning more? Speak to a Higher Education Consultant for a consultation.