Consequences of Addiction: Top Ways Addiction Ruins Lives

Top Ways Addiction Ruins Lives

Whereas addiction was once commonly viewed as a mental or moral weakness, the public’s perception is slowly shifting toward a more compassionate viewpoint.

Addiction does not discriminate, as it crosses all races, nationalities, social classes, genders, and other defining characteristics.

Although there are many different forms of medically diagnosable addictions (such as shopping addiction or gambling addiction), most people think of substance abuse when hearing this term. Substance abuse generally refers to illicit drug, alcohol, or prescription drug addiction.

Most addictions start as simple consumption of alcohol or a drug in a social setting. As people begin to use more of a harmful substance over time, they need a larger “dose” to achieve the original effect, and their bodies can become dependent on the substance over time.

If you feel that you might be suffering from the onset of addiction, or if you suspect someone you know might be affected by this disease, continue reading so you’ll learn how to identify the signs of addiction.

You’ll also learn all of the many things that can go wrong if the addiction isn’t addressed soon enough.

Addiction Statistics in the United States

To understand how big the issue of substance abuse is in the United States, here are a few facts and statistics to put it into perspective:

The number of treatment center admissions in the U.S. for substance abuse-related issues continually falls between 1 and 2 million each year. In 2014, there were more than 1.6 million such admissions, according to SAMHSA.

  • Alcohol (36 percent) and opiates (30 percent, counting heroin) were the leading primary reasons for admissions to substance abuse treatment centers in 2014.
  • Opiates were the only substance that continually rose in prevalence from 2004 to 2014 when it comes to the primary reason for admission to a treatment center in the U.S.
  • Polydrug use was cited in more than 63 percent of admissions to substance abuse treatment centers in the U.S. in 2014.
  • Annual drug overdose deaths nearly tripled between 1999 and 2014, according to the CDC. And in 2015, more than 52,000 people died of a drug overdose, including more than 33,000 who had used opioids or heroin.
  • Additionally, there are roughly 2,200 alcohol poisoning deaths each year in the U.S. – approximately six such deaths per day.
  • In 2014, nearly 10,000 people were killed in alcohol-related traffic accidents, including 209 deaths of children 14 years or younger.
  • There were nearly 5.1 million drug-related emergency department visits in 2011, according to SAMHSA.

Common Signs of Addiction

Although different substances elicit their own set of symptoms and effects, there are some common themes. Whether the user in question is yourself or a loved one, look for these general symptoms and signs of addiction:

  • The person needs more of the substance to achieve the desired effect.
  • They can’t stop themselves from using the substance, even when expressing a desire to quit.
  • The user appears out of sorts when not under the effect of the substance. They experience symptoms such as shakiness, headaches, sweating, nausea, and insomnia.
  • The user has lost interest in hobbies or activities that once appealed to them. They also might have trouble executing formerly routine tasks, such as working or cooking.
  • They continuously ask others to lend them money, or they begin stealing to support their substance abuse.
  • Their physical appearance is beginning to change, especially regarding weight loss or gain, and their personal hygiene might take a nosedive, too. They also might frequently experience bloodshot eyes, bad breath, shaking, or tremors.
  • They’ve frequently become irritable and argumentative, especially around family members.
  • In the case of prescription drug use, these individuals begin using medication that was prescribed for other people, and they may go to more than one doctor (known as “doctor shopping”) to obtain one or more desired prescriptions.

How Addiction Affects Health

Those suffering from drug addiction have a life expectancy of only 15 to 20 years after the habit’s onset if left untreated. Additionally, alcohol and other drugs play a role in more than 50 percent of all suicides in the U.S.

Harmful substances release anywhere from two to 10 times the usual amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is associated with the “pleasure” or the “reward” system of the brain. High levels of dopamine affect a person’s mood, sleep, memory, focus, vision, and motor skills.

Prolonged substance abuse can lead to the following physical complications:

  • organ damage
  • neurological impairment
  • cancer (via nicotine or steroid abuse)
  • hormone imbalance
  • gastrointestinal disease
  • respiratory issues
  • drastic weight gain or loss
  • prenatal and fertility problems
  • HIV or AIDs (via risky sexual behaviors while under the influence)

Prolonged, active addiction can also trigger the following conditions and mental health disorders:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • paranoia
  • psychosis
  • insomnia
  • memory loss
  • mood swings
  • aggression

Then, of course, users also run the risk of death when consuming substances, whether via overdose, a poisoning incident, or a heart attack. Substance-induced cancer and AIDs can also lead to an early death.

Legal and Social Consequences of Addiction

Undoubtedly, when somebody continues to use and abuse substances, they risk legal consequences and watch their relationships and social life deteriorate.

Legal Consequences

Getting caught with an illicit substance or even a prescription medication obtained illegally can lead to fines and prison time. Prison sentences can be as high as 40 years for someone found with a large number of drugs.

The individual may also face civil lawsuits related to their substance abuse or distribution. Currently, nearly half of all inmates in federal prisons are serving time on drug-related offenses, although most involve some form of trafficking.

Here’s a quick rundown on the most common legal consequences of addiction:

  • large fines
  • prison sentences (up to 40 years)
  • probation
  • driver’s license suspension (leading to transportation difficulties)
  • restrictions on living in specific communities
  • strict community service sentences
  • arrest records (that make it challenging to find a well-paying job)
  • loss of the right to vote (after convicted of a felony)
Financial Consequences of Addiction

Frequent substance abuse commonly rings up a price tag in the thousands annually per user. There are many other financial setbacks related to drug or alcohol addiction, and they include:

  • job loss
  • substantial debt or bankruptcy
  • maxed-out credit cards
  • default on a mortgage or other loans
  • divorce
  • home foreclosure
  • vehicle repossession
  • hefty fines for legal charges
  • gambling or stealing (to recover money lost to substance use)
Social Consequences

Even if someone can avoid the legal fallout often associated with addiction, their relationships with friends and family members will often negatively transform, particularly as they go through mood swings and lose interest in formerly cherished activities.

Those who abuse substances may not lose friends altogether, but they usually start spending more time with others who misuse drugs or alcohol frequently. This often causes tension or isolates them from friends who do not struggle with addiction.

Many addicts also engage in risky sexual behaviors, which can lead to contracting HIV or another STD.

In some cases, though, substance abusers may isolate themselves or have strained so many relationships that they begin to have minimal human contact.

Mental health conditions, such as depression or social anxiety, can slowly emerge. The risk of suicide is reasonably high for those in this situation.

In almost any scenario, addiction negatively impacts the user’s personal and professional life. The ongoing substance use can make it hard for the person to function in most aspects of society. If married, the user’s relationship status will consistently be at stake.

The individual may also be suspended or expelled from various organized activities, such as team sports. Addiction also makes it hard to concentrate and perform well in school and at work.

Finding Help for a Substance Abuse Problem

If you think that you or your loved one are experiencing any of the above situations, odds are you are in need of additional help to overcome your addiction.

Many people will look into inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation. These are the two most common treatment programs offered at treatment centers around the country. Here are some things to keep in mind when picking which treatment program to enroll in:

  • keep your personal preferences in mind (religion, sexual orientation, and other values)
  • the severity of your condition
  • if you are addicted to more than one substance
  • if you have been through a treatment program before

Any of the above factors should be considered when someone is thinking about inpatient or outpatient treatment. An addiction specialist can help walk you through your specific needs for treatment as well.

Scott Friend Msw M.s. Medical Review E1609434230277
Medically reviewed by
Scott Friend, MSW, M.S.

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Is an accredited drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, that believes addiction treatment should not just address “how to stay sober” but needs to transform the life of the addict and empower him or her to create a more meaningful and positive life. We are dedicated to transforming the despair of addiction into a purposeful life of confidence, self-respect and happiness. We want to give recovering addicts the tools to return to the outside world completely substance-free and successful.
elevate addiction services logo
Is an accredited drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, that believes addiction treatment should not just address “how to stay sober” but needs to transform the life of the addict and empower him or her to create a more meaningful and positive life. We are dedicated to transforming the despair of addiction into a purposeful life of confidence, self-respect and happiness. We want to give recovering addicts the tools to return to the outside world completely substance-free and successful.