Addiction can have a number of complications and consequences as it is a complex and chronic disorder. A person can experience a range of effects due to the varying types of addictive substance and behaviors and the severity of the condition.
Common Complications Of Addiction
Addiction is a complex condition which can result in a wide range of negative physical and psychological consequences. However, the complications primarily depend on the severity and type of addictive substance or behavior. In fact, different adverse effects can feed off each other and cause serious health risks in the addicted person. Some of the most frequently observed complications of this disorder are mentioned below:
1. Psychological complications
Common long-term psychological complications may include the following:
A. Mental disorders
Substances can often trigger mental health issues 1 , like anxiety and depression, and may cause or worsen existing psychiatric conditions. Addiction can alter the way our brain functions. Certain psychoactive drugs may also result in hallucinations, adverse psychological effects and mental illnesses in the long run. Repeated consumption of LSD 2 can cause drug-induced psychosis and schizophrenia.
B. Loneliness & isolation
Addiction can make sufferers become socially withdrawn and feel isolated and lonely. They may feel misunderstood, judged, criticized and hence, they tend to push their loved ones away. This can make them feel further isolated as it limits the number of people who support them and help them recover from the disorder. This can motivate them to further engage in their addiction and experience serious complications. Certain addictive behaviors, such as social media 3 and internet games 4 , can also cause loneliness.
One 2014 study 5 explains “The feeling of loneliness is stronger in drug abusers rather than non-drug abusers that could develop the sense of being different from the community and increase the probability of taking high risk behaviors and abusing drugs.”
Studies 6 reveal that substance addiction can cause or worsen depression in addicts, especially in adolescents. In fact, excessive alcohol and tobacco use can also trigger depression 7 symptoms in someone. One 2009 meta-analysis 8 observed high levels of depression among people with alcohol and drug use disorders. People addicted to substances or behaviors may also be highly prone to experiencing shame, guilt, restlessness and anxiety 9 from long-term addictive behavioral and substance dependency.
D. Suicidal tendencies
Research 10 reveals that addiction also significantly increases the risk of suicide 11 as well.
“The association of alcohol and drugs with suicidal thinking and behavior is both causal and conductive. The subjective state of hopelessness is key to the disposition to actual suicides,” states one study 12 . It has also been observed 13 that drug addicts are more likely to experience both depression and suicide risks as both outcomes are closely related.
2. Physical complications
Addiction can cause a number of physical complications, along with mental health issues, such as:
A. Health issues due to substances
Consumptions of certain drugs and stimulants can cause physical effects, such as nasal cartilage damage from snorting cocaine, possible fatal constipation by taking opiates, severe dental decay due to methamphetamine and different types of cancers, lung damage & respiratory illnesses from tobacco use. Studies 14 show that cocaine addiction can lead to –
- Increased blood pressure
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Acute coronary syndrome
- Pulmonary hypertension,
- Asthma exacerbation
- Alveolar haemorrhage
- Interstitial pneumonitis,
- Sexual transmitted diseases
- Otolaryngologic effects
B. Heart diseases
Cardiovascular health 15 may also be compromised due to long-term substance abuse as certain chemicals can increase heart rate and blood pressure. Addicts are also more likely to suffer from heart attacks, coronary artery disease 16 , strokes and even death. Another 2003 study 17 has found that stimulants tend to have “subtle neurotoxicity and a measurable impact on the cardiovascular system.”
C. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
A person with addicted to sex may be highly likely to developing STDs, like HIV/AIDS due to repeated risky and unsafe sexual behaviors. One 2006 study 18, 3(11), 51–58. )) indicates that “human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Hepatitis B and C, syphilis, and gonorrhea are particularly concerning consequences,” observed in sex addicts.
D. Fetal damage
Women can suffer from fetal anomalies, birth defects and fetal loss if they take drugs 19 or alcohol 20 during pregnancy. According to a 2016 research 21, substance use while being pregnant is associated with “shorter gestational ages, lower birth weight, fetal loss, developmental and behavioral defects, preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, and intrauterine fetal death.”
E. Damage and injury
Based on the method of consumption, a person can experience different types of injury. For instance, if someone uses unsterilized needles to inject intravenous (IV) drugs like heroin, they may suffer from muscle and skin damage in the entry point area and have a higher risk of transmitting HIV, hepatitis C and other infections. They may also injure themselves and others by getting into accidents like car crashes while being intoxicated, which may often lead to deaths.
Overdosing is a serious risk factor for addiction. Consuming substances, drugs or alcohol excessively or mixing different drugs can cause an overdose, which can often be fatal. Overdose may also occur if someone abuses prescription drugs as well. A 2012 study 22 states “Acute drug overdosing is an important cause of organ dysfunction and metabolic derangements and the patients often require intensive care.” It can also lead to a coma or even death.
3. Personal complications
Apart from adverse physical and mental health outcomes, people who are addicted to substances or behaviors can also face the following personal complications:
A. Social consequences
Addictions can be seriously damaging to one’s personal life. It can affect their ability to pursue education, find and hold jobs, maintain relationships with family and friends and cause relationship problems with romantic partners. These can further lead to isolation, loneliness and depression. “Individuals with a substance use disorder (SUD) often have fewer social support network resources than those without SUDs,” states a 2019 study 23 .
B. Criminal behavior
Studies 24 have established that there is a strong association between substance addiction and criminal behavior. As addicts are unable to maintain jobs, have poor relationships and lack support, they often turn to crime 25 to acquire drugs or engage in addictive behavior that are typically expensive. Addicts are often found to engage in criminal activity 26 to fund their addictions and are repeatedly sentenced to prison. “Substance abuse, particularly the combination of alcohol and drugs, is a predictor of criminality and criminal recidivism,” states a 2014 study 27 .
C. Financial consequences
Addiction can also lead to financial instabilities and drive the addicted person into poverty and even homlessness 28 . They may spend a lot of money to acquire drugs and substances or behavioral impulses and may avoid their duties, jobs and other financial responsibilities. Moreover, they may also steal or manipulate others to obtain money for drugs leading to debt or bankruptcy. Due to a lack of money, they may also experience poor health and nutrition. Financial difficulties can also make them depressed and suicidal.
Overcoming Addiction Complications
It is evident that there are several serious and damaging complications of addiction that can severely affect a person’s quality of life. Drugs and other substances can lead to negative psychological and physical effects, that can not only affect the health of the sufferer but can also create problems for their loved ones. Moreover, chronic substance use and engagement in addictive behavior can lead to suicidal ideation while overdose can cause death. However, with effective treatment and support from friends and family, one can overcome their addiction over time with determination and patience and live a healthier and normal life.References:
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- Vardy MM, Kay SR. LSD psychosis or LSD-induced schizophrenia? A multimethod inquiry. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1983 Aug;40(8):877-83. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.1983.01790070067008. PMID: 6870484.
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