For someone unfortunate enough to be in the throes of drug addiction, understanding the effects of drug abuse on your body can be nearly impossible. These mind-altering chemicals interfere with vital neurotransmitters, tricking your brain into believing that your priority is drug use.
Long-term substance abuse damages cells in the brain, as well as takes a toll on the rest of the body. Most of these effects can be overcome, with professional care, abstinence and ongoing therapy.
Healing the Mind and Body Following a Substance Use Disorder
Although most withdrawal symptoms are temporary, some of the mental and physical effects of drug abuse take time to reverse. Seeking drug addiction treatment in pursuit of continued sobriety, in addition to making healthier lifestyle choices, will restore you to health. Mental illness, alcoholism and drug dependence have a reciprocal connection, and many people take drugs to self-medicate for the symptoms of mental disorders.
The changes drugs make to your brain can persist for years after you stop taking them, which is why abstinence is recommended. Once sober, you’ll need therapy to enable you to live life to the fullest and reach your full potential.
How Do Drugs Hijack the Brain?
In the past, people were skeptical about the idea that drugs alter your brain and thought of addiction as an unhealthy choice some people make. Many people’s family members still hold this unfortunate view. Scientists and sufferers have argued the opposite for years, and recent advances in our understanding of how the brain works have proven that substance use disorders are not conscious decisions at all.
Addiction and Your Reward Centers
Our reward centers are programmed in a certain way. For instance, we need to eat food to live, so a neurotransmitter is released when we eat to make us feel good and encourage us to repeat the behavior. The same is true of sex — procreation continues our species, so our brains provide an incentive to enjoy and repeat sexual activity. Put simply, when you do something good, the reward system entices you to repeat the action. This is a fundamental tenet of human existence.
It’s this system that alcohol and other drugs hijack — and there’s no way of reversing it. From initial drug use, the brain of someone with the genetic and environmental risk factors necessary to develop substance use disorders is changed forever. This is why abstinence is so essential for people who’ve struggled with addiction. Detoxing or getting clean doesn’t invalidate the inherent predisposition you have toward drug misuse.
Addiction is a chronic disease, and therapy and professional care help prevent relapse in the future.
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Don’t go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you’re facing. Get in touch with one today.
If you have coverage of any kind from a major insurance provider, your treatment is likely covered. We promise to keep your information confidential.
The Connection Between Drug Addiction and Mental Illness
Self-medicating to escape difficult emotions associated with mental illness is common. However, drug use tends to exacerbate mental health conditions. This is partly due to the depletion of vital feel-good neurotransmitters caused by alcohol and drug use and partly because covering up a feeling doesn’t make it go away. Avoiding our emotions or not facing up to them usually makes matters worse.
Starting treatment for a substance use disorder can be a revelation for some people because it kick-starts the therapy process and introduces them to support groups. By continuing to seek professional help after rehab, you can learn how to manage depression, anxiety, stress, and personality disorders and live a full, happy life.
Long-Term Physical Effects of Drug Misuse
Drug abuse and addiction impact more than brain chemistry. There are a number of long-term health effects that can diminish a person’s physical well-being:
- Illicit drug and alcohol abuse can cause people to lose control, putting them at an increased risk of engaging in risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex, dangerous driving and fighting
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and one of the major effects of drug abuse is damage to heart health. Drugs and alcohol constrict blood vessels and increase your risk of chest pain, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
- The liver processes toxins in the body, and repeated alcohol and drug abuse diminishes liver cells’ ability to regenerate, putting drug users at an increased risk of liver disease and liver failure.
- Alcohol and drug addiction affect the adrenal glands, which can lead to kidney failure and various types of kidney disease.
- Cocaine use, alcohol abuse, opiate abuse and use of other substances can cause trouble breathing. As such, people who abuse drugs are at a higher risk of damaging their respiratory system.
- Many drugs have long-term effects on the gastrointestinal tract, leading to abdominal pain and disease.
- In addition to mental health effects, illicit drug use can cause physical changes to the brain, causing memory problems or even brain damage.
You Can’t Underestimate the Benefits of a Healthy Lifestyle
Exercise, mindfulness, routine, hobbies and a healthy diet often become distant memories for those going through addiction. Each one is essential to living a fulfilling and happy life as a human being.
While the effects aren’t always instant, focusing on setting goals and celebrating achievements brings long-term genuine satisfaction. The longer you stay drug-free and practice healthy habits, the sooner you can heal from the physical and mental effects of substance abuse.
Our Brains and Bodies Are Impressive
One of the most incredible aspects of our bodies is the brain’s ability to adapt and repair. While many drugs actively cause the loss of brain cells and distort the way the central nervous system functions, the brain is highly adept at repairing itself. The healthier your lifestyle is, the more likely your brain is to heal.
The same is true of physical health problems. Addictive drugs can do damage to your body, but its potential to heal is astounding. You can reverse many health consequences of a substance use disorder by eating well, getting enough sleep, practicing mindfulness and getting regular exercise.
Even those who’ve misused drugs since an early age or have a family history of addiction can break free from the cycle caused by illegal drugs and alcohol.
Addiction Treatment in Central New Jersey
If you’re struggling with addiction, it’s due to genetic and environmental factors that put you at an increased risk. But that doesn’t mean you’re destined to suffer forever. Whether you’re addicted to alcohol, an illegal drug or prescription drugs, rehab is the first step on the road to recovery.