Long-Term Effects of Drug Addiction

While many drugs may make users feel like they’re receiving a reward in the short term, regular drug use over an extended period of time can have serious long-term effects on both physical and mental health. It is important for anyone with a drug addiction to learn about the long-term consequences of substance abuse, as this knowledge may serve as a motivating factor to conquer their addiction.Drugs influence different physiological systems and can put a significant amount of strain on the body over time, leading to a number of different physical health complications. For example, long-term use of stimulants like cocaine can lead to tremors, seizures, and heart or respiratory failure. The long-term use of marijuana can cause a weakened immune system, lung damage, and weight gain for those who find that the drug increases their appetite.  (University of North Carolina).


Perhaps even more worrying than the physical effects that drug use can have on the body are the mental effects. The human brain is continuously changing, with certain neural pathways being strengthened and others being pruned based on how often they are activated. Drugs act on the reward pathways of the brain by releasing dopamine, a chemical that leads to feelings of pleasure. While this may seem positive at the time, the pleasure associated with drug use can cause cravings which lead to addiction. With more frequent drug use, the brain begins releasing less dopamine, causing the user to build up a tolerance. This leads many users to start taking more and more of their drug of choice in order to get that same initial feeling of pleasure. (National Institutes of Health)

Dopamine isn’t the only brain chemical affected by long-term drug use. For example, MDMA, which is found in drugs like ecstasy and molly, causes the brain to reduce the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, sleep, appetite, and learning. The suppression of serotonin causes euphoric feelings initially, but long-term use of MDMA can cause learning and memory problems. (National Institutes of Health)

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the main ingredients of marijuana, also influences the way neurons send and receive signals. Over time, this chemical can impair coordination, memory, and judgment in users. (National Institutes of Health)

When you’re riding the high from your drug of choice, it can be difficult to think about potential problems that you might face in the future, but many of the long-term health issues associated with drugs use and addiction cannot be reversed and are certainly not worth it. If you struggle with addiction, the best thing you can do for your future is to seek out treatment.

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