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Drug Addiction and Health Consequences

When individuals are abusing drugs or alcohol, the last thing they do is stop and think about the damage they are creating. This is especially true when it comes to one's own health and well being. When an addict is sticking a needle in their arm or smoking a crack pipe, their only interest at that moment is to get high. Their brain and mind is telling them to get high at all costs. After time, the cost of this mindset and destructive behavior is loss of everything including one's health and ultimately one's life. Not to mention, loss of everything that once meant something and was important such as family and loved ones. It can be difficult to grasp how an addict can get to this point.

Each drug has its own specific side effects and can cause different types of health consequences. What individuals don't realize when they're caught up in addiction, is that some of these health consequences are reversible and some are not. Some health consequences that result from drug addiction are permanent. So an individual who thinks that their drug use and the consequences of their drug use are going to affect them only at that moment, are in for a rude awakening when they struggling with pain and other health consequences as a result. Health consequences from drug addiction can haunt someone for years and sometimes for the rest of their lives.

From the point of view of someone who does not abuse drugs, it can be hard to understand why and how and individual can get caught up in drug addiction in the first place. It is a complex problem, mostly having to do with how drugs affect the individual physically and psychologically. One has to understand that an individual who uses drugs can feel powerless over their drug addiction because of the hold that drugs can take on a person. This is because when they take their drug of choice, it directly affects the reward center of the brain. This is the part of the brain which produces chemicals in the body that let someone know when they are taking something or doing something that will result pleasure or euphoria. This doesn't just happen when someone uses drugs, and can happen from excercising or even eating or doing a certain activity that one enjoys. But this is especially true of drugs.

This is the key reason that individuals become addicted to drugs. When someone takes a drug, their brain identifies that substance with the feelings of pleasure, euphoria, calm etc. that were caused in the body and mind when the individual used the drug. The brain and body remembers these feelings and wants them repeated. The urge to experience these feelings becomes constant, and the individual finds themselves wanting more of the drug and they will experience intense cravings for it until they use it again. If this has gone on for some time, the individual can develop a physical and psychological dependence to their drug or drugs of choice. This is where the cycle of addiction kicks in, as they will begin to experience negative sensations and emotions, completely opposite to the positive feelings they want to experience, if their drug use suddenly ceases.

Their brain and bodies have become used to this artificial chemical high. Ultimately, they cannot readjust quickly enough to life without the drug. Complete discontinuation of drug use produces a drug withdrawal syndrome that is the exact opposite of euphoria, as activity in pleasure center of brain decreases below normal levels with no time to readjust. Withdrawal syndrome as a result of abrupt cessation of drug use can result in symptoms ranging from mild to severe, depending on the individual's drug of choice. Heroin withdrawal from instance is described as similar to a bad case of the flu but only 10 times worse. Other types of withdrawal, such as alcohol or benzodiazepine withdrawal can result in seizures, coma, suicidal thoughts, etc. and are especially dangerous and can even result in death. It's your body and mind's way of punishing you. These withdrawal symptoms can be easily extinguished by using more drugs. All of these symptoms can almost instantly dissipate by putting that needle in your arm or smoking that crack pipe. This is how individuals become addicted to drugs and alcohol and why it is so hard to quit despite the negative consequences.

So while it may be hard to understand if you have not been caught up in the cycle of addiction, it is easier than one thinks to become physically and psychologically dependent to drugs and use drugs despite any and all consequences. While the individual who is addicted to drugs is most certainly not a victim, and uses drugs on his own accord and by his own will, one can understand a little better how an individual can go down this road. An individual who is caught up in addiction will chose drugs over their own families and children, over their jobs, over their friends, and their own health.

Different drugs can have different health consequences. And we're not just talking about physical health, as drugs can also have a detrimental effect on one's mental health. These physical and mental health consequences can have life altering effects, and this is the risk that individuals take when they abuse drugs and alcohol.

Over 13 million people administer recreational and illicit drugs intravenously worldwide. While there are a number of ways individuals can administer their drug of choice, injection is a favored method due to the rapid onset of effects. When someone administers a drug intravenously, they will typically experience the effects of the drugs within five to ten seconds. Administering the drug in this way also bypasses the need for the drug to be metabolized by the liver, causing a much more powerful effect from than if someone were to take the equivalent amount of the drug orally. Examples of drugs which can be administered intravenously are heroin, meth, cocaine, and some prescription drugs which can be dissolved and injected such as OxyContin or Vicodin.

Individuals who inject drugs in this manner put themselves at risk of serious health consequences each time they shoot up. Again, individuals who are using these drugs are not concerned with anything but getting immediate gratification. Needles aren't exactly easy to come by, so many intravenous drugs users share needles or use needles which may have been used by someone else. Drug users often engage in risky sexual behavior as well, so it isn't uncommon for an intravenous drug user to have HIV or some other type of blood borne virus such as Hepatitis. Therefore, drug users who share needles or use needles that have been used by someone who is infected with some type of blood borne virus will ultimately contract one or more of these diseases unknowingly. These types of diseases have no cure, and can result in serious illness and death.

Individuals who use drugs intravenously also put themselves at risk of scarring their skin and veins. This happens as a result of using blunt needles which have been used over and over again to administer the drug. This is very common among individuals who are incarcerated, and use the same syringes over and over, sometimes hundreds of times. Over a prolonged period of time, intravenous drug use can cause vein collapse. As a result of toxin buildup and scarring, veins become darkened producing tracks along the length of the veins which are commonly known as track marks. Veins can become fragile after some time and may even rupture, likely causing hemorrhage, a lack of oxygen to that area of the body resulting in tissue decay, and gangrene. Some drugs which are injected can contain substances that do not easily dissolve in water. When users inject these drugs, these particles can pass into the body and block small blood vessels or weaken the blood vessel walls which can result in kidney damage, lung problems and strokes.

Insufflation, or "snorting", is another way recreational and illicit drug users administer their drug of choice. Examples of drugs which can be snorted are cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, meth and many diverted pharmaceutical drugs such as amphetamines and stimulants. Snorting these drugs is a common form of administration due to the rapid onset of effects and quick absorption into the bloodstream through the mucus membranes in the sinus cavity. Some drugs have a higher rate of absorption and are more effective in smaller doses when administered through the nose. When individuals administer drugs in this way, over time it can wear down the nasal cavity and insufflation of drugs has been known to destroy the nasal septum. This can occur because snorting drugs can high constrict blood vessels in the nasal cavity, or because some drugs contain highly caustic chemicals or substances which can wear away at the nasal cavity over time. A nasal septum which has been compromised can result in crusting, blood discharge, difficulty breathing, nasal pressure and discomfort. While there is a possibility for this damage to be reversed, it is also likely that the individual will experience longer lasting discomfort and pain.

Other health consequences of drug addiction are a result of side effects of drugs. For example, long-term use of methamphetamines results in what is commonly known as "meth mouth". Meth mouth can happen for a variety of reasons, and is extremely painful. When individuals use meth, they get cravings for carbonated and sweet sugary beverages which are bad for the teeth. In conjunction with the decay caused by these beverages, many meth users don't care for their teeth properly and don't even brush their teeth or floss. On top of that, meth's ingredients are corrosive to teeth and contain ingredients such as battery acid, lantern fuel, antifreeze, hydrochloric acid and drain cleaner. Additionally, meth users get the tendancy to grind and their teeth which results in further damage. Methamphetamines also cause the protective saliva around the teeth to dry up. This combination of factors often results in such bad tooth decay, that the teeth cannot be saved and must be pulled instead. Unfortunately, meth users who use meth to the point of getting "meth mouth" will have to pay for their drug use for the rest of their lives, as there is not much that a dentist can do for this condition.

"Club" or "party" drugs such as ecstasy, which were once thought to be less dangerous than other drugs, are now known to cause serious and long-lasting side effects and health consequences. Individuals who use ecstasy over an extended period of time perform worse on particular types of memory or cognitive tasks than do nonusers. Studies have actually shown that ecstasy use causes brain damage, and exposure to the drug for only 4 days has been shown to cause damage to the nural pathways in the brain responsible for serotonin production and the damage was still apparent 7 years later. Serotonin is critical for learning, sleep, and positive mood. As a result, chronic ecstasy users often struggle with depression, memory loss, anxiety, and other psychological damage. Use of ecstasy also produces sweating and increases in body temperature which can result in dehydration, which can in itself be very dangerous and lead to serious health consequences including death.

Drugs such as meth are stimulant drugs, and can cause increased blood pressure and heart rate. This can easily result in complications and side effects resulting in heart attack or stroke. Drugs such as heroin and prescription opioids suppress breathing, and can easily result in coma or death if a lethal overdose is administered. Cocaine addiction can result in extreme insomnia and sexual problems, heart disease, heart attacks, respiratory failure, strokes, seizures, and gastrointestinal problems.

So as you can see, drug addiction can have serious health consequences which can affect an individual not only short-term but for the rest of their lives. This is why it is so important that individuals get the help they need when they are struggling with addiction. The sooner they seek treatment, or someone that cares about them intervenes and gets them such treatment, the less likely they are to experience more long term health consequences.

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