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Over 21.5 million Americans struggle with some kind of drug abuse.

If you have a loved one battle drug addiction, you should get them help as soon as possible. If they don’t get treatment, they can suffer some serious medical side effects. And these aren’t just things that will go away when they recover.

Keep reading to learn about the long term effects of drug abuse on a users mental, emotional, and physical health.

What Is Drug Addiction?

Many people don’t realize drug addiction is actually a brain disorder, not just a behavioral issue.

When someone starts using drugs, the drugs can change how their brain circuits function. These changes in the brain get in the way of normal pleasures in a person’s life (like the enjoyment of food or sex), interfere with their ability to control stress, hampers with their decision-making ability, weakens their memory, lowers their ability to learn, etc.

Even though the person who’s abusing drugs may recognize the drugs have a negative impact on their lives, these changes make it difficult for them to stop.

That’s why the desire to quit isn’t usually enough. They have to literally rewire the circuits in their brain.

Will Everyone Who Tries Drugs Get Addicted?

No one is immune to addiction, but because addiction is a brain disorder, some people get addicted much easier than others.

Genetics do play a part in addiction. People who have family members who struggle with drug addiction have a higher risk of dealing with addiction themselves.

But just because a person doesn’t have addiction in the family doesn’t mean they won’t get addicted. Environmental variables also contribute to the development of drug addiction.

A person just doesn’t know how quickly or easily they’ll become addicted to the drugs they’re using. That’s why you should never “try” any drugs in the first place.

The Long Term Effects of Drug Abuse

The longer a person uses drugs, the more their health will decline. When you’re dealing with an addicted loved one, you’ll want to get them help as soon as possible. Some of these long term effects of drug abuse can have some seriously negative impacts on a person’s mental, emotional, and physical well being.

Here’s a quick look at some of the lasting effects of drug addiction.

1. Kidney Failure

Taking drugs consistently over a period of several years can put a huge strain on the kidneys. Certain drugs cause things like muscle breakdown, dehydration, higher body temperature, etc., and these side effects all contribute to kidney damage.

In fact, kidney failure is a common result of abusing drugs like ketamine, MDMA, heroin, and more.

2. Depression

Substance abuse has a clear relation to depression.

In some cases, preexisting depression leads to drug use, but in others, drug addiction actually changes the brain that increases symptoms of depression.

And using drugs to relieve depression doesn’t work. Drugs only alleviate symptoms of depression when a person is high. When they aren’t, drug use can make the symptoms worse, especially if the person is going through withdrawals.

3. Liver Failure

While this is more commonly an effect of alcoholism, a person can cause liver failure if they’re taking steroids, opioids, inhalants, or DXM, especially if the individual uses them over multiple years.

The liver clears toxins from the bloodstream, and consistently using drugs can overwork it. When the liver is overworked, it can cause problems like scarring, chronic inflammation, tissue necrosis, and, in the worst cases, cancer.

Taking multiple substances at once puts the liver at an even higher risk of failure.

4. Anxiety

Like depression, addiction is also linked to anxiety. And again, this anxiety could be the initial trigger for drug abuse, or the symptoms can develop after taking drugs.

Different drugs cause different types of panic disorders.

For example, anxiety is a normal side effect of drugs like cocaine and other stimulants. Other types of drugs, include things like benzodiazepines, cause high anxiety during withdrawals.

5. Heart Conditions

Many different types of drugs are known to cause various heart issues. Things like increased blood pressure, a raised heart rate, myocardial infarction (or a heart attack), and aberrant cardiac rhythm can all be brought about by drug abuse.

Users who inject drugs into their bloodstream can also develop bacterial infections in the heart or collapsed veins.

6. Paranoia

Certain drugs, including marijuana and cocaine, can cause paranoia that gets worse with continued abuse. The fact that these substances are usually illegal usually contribute to these feelings.

This can make individuals lie about and hide their drug use and develop a mounting fear of being caught.

7. Lung Damage

Drugs harm the lungs in a few different ways.

First of all, inhaling or smoking drugs (think things like crack cocaine or marijuana) can severely damage your lungs. In fact, the entire respiratory system can be affected by drug use.

But heroin and other opioids actually slow the user’s breathing. This can create many negative impacts on the user’s health.

8. Behavioral Issues

Remember, drug abuse remaps parts of the brain, so people who’re addicted to drugs may find themselves behaving in ways they never thought they would.

These behaviors might seem erratic or out of control, but an addict may have trouble controlling them.

9. Other Disease

Depending on the drug, a person can end up with hepatitis, lung disease, heart disease, HIV, AIDS, and cancer. These can have lasting effects and, in serious cases, could even cause death.

That’s why it’s always important to get your loved one help before these conditions can arise. The longer they use drugs, the more risk they have of getting these health problems.

How to Help a Long Term Drug Abuser

These people may not even realize they have a problem. At this point, the long term effects of drug abuse use may already have caused severe damage to their mental, emotional, and physical health.

One of the best things to do for a person like this is finding a viable treatment option. There are many different types of treatment options out there, so find something that works for your loved one and your family.

Looking for a treatment plan for your loved one? Take a look at some of our programs and see how we can help.