ClickCease The Long-Term Health Toll of Drug Abuse | Granite Recovery Centers

The Long-Term Health Toll of Drug Abuse

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: August 27th, 2021

James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.

The health consequences of drug abuse vary with the user, the drug in question, and how one takes a particular drug. With the vast numbers of drugs available, there are undoubtedly drugs which are far more dangerous than others when abused. However, most illicit drugs present damaging physical and mental health risks when abused over the long-term. Addiction is more likely with sustained use of a drug, leading to dangerous drug-seeking behaviors, wreaking havoc on one’s psychological health, and placing the user at great risk, from organ damage to death by overdose.

The Physical Manifestations of Drug Abuse

Long-term drug abuse often leads to a host of physical symptoms that affect the body’s immune system, the health of essential organs such as the heart and lungs, and even the physical structure of the brain itself. Meth addicts often experience severe dental issues, skin sores, compromised immune systems, and more serious medical complications. Heroin users may deal with pneumonia and other lung issues from the drug’s effects on respiration, along with greatly increased risks for diseases like HIV, collapsed veins, and clogged blood vessels, among other symptoms. Malnutrition is common in drug addicts, with many health conditions resulting directly from drug use and from behaviors surrounding obtaining and use of drugs. For example, some users abuse drugs in “runs”, where they often neglect food or sleep in attempts to keep a high going. Even drugs often perceived as “softer” – benzodiazepines – can cause a host of physical symptoms when abused, such as shakiness, headaches, or high blood pressure.

Addiction’s Cognitive and Emotional Damage

The cognitive and psychological damage posed by drug addiction can be as destructive as any physical symptoms. Many drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamine, cause physical changes to structures in the brain related to cognition. This can have profound effects on a person’s memory, coordination, decision-making abilities, and emotional control. Most of these changes in the brain result from long-term use that is associated with an addiction – classified by medical experts as a disease that changes how the brain works. Along with cognition, an addict’s mental health is often damaged due to drug abuse. This can result from a deterioration of social relationships, from damage to neurotransmitter function that regulates moods, and from co-occurring mental disorders that both fuel addiction and are worsened by it.

The Threat of Drug Overdose

A final health risk of long-term drug abuse is that of overdose. Many drugs, in particular opioids like heroin or fentanyl, present high risks of overdose to users. Overdose can result in unconsciousness, permanent brain damage, or even death, with many losing their lives due to a single bad dose of fentanyl-laced heroin or cocaine. Overdoses from opioids can be treated if one acts quickly, with the opioid antagonist known as Naloxone, or Narcan.

Getting Treatment for Your Drug Addiction Before It’s Too Late

The health risks of long-term drug abuse are often profound, and affect every part of a person’s life. Rehabilitation and recovery are achievable, no matter how much one has struggled with substance abuse. Even in cases where drugs have caused some degree of cognitive damage, much of it can be repaired with the right treatment and long-term abstinence. Treating addiction requires a multifaceted approach that targets the individual’s drug use as well as their underlying reasons for the addiction. Granite Recovery Centers with 12 drug rehab centers in NH combines the time-tested approach of the 12 Steps with numerous clinically-backed models of psychotherapy to treat substance abuse and the co-occurring mental disorders that contribute to it. With recovery programs based in personalized care, Granite Recovery Centers provides the environment, tools, and guidance you or your loved one need to overcome addiction, develop healthy habits and coping strategies, heal the damage to body, mind, and soul, and reclaim the better life of sustained recovery you deserve.   If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, please call our admission specialists at 855.712.7784 . We can help. 

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At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.