The far-reaching effects of drug abuse and drug addiction
While each drug of abuse produces different physical effects, all abused substances share one thing in common. They hijack the brain’s normal “reward” pathways and alter the areas of the brain responsible for self-control, judgment, emotional regulation, motivation, memory, and learning.
Whether you’re addicted to nicotine, alcohol, heroin, cocaine, bhang, or miraa, the effect on the brain is the same: an uncontrollable craving to use that is more important than anything else, including family, friends, career, and even your own health and happiness.
Using drugs as an escape: A short-term fix with long-term consequences
Many people use drugs in order to escape physical and emotional discomfort. Maybe you started drinking to numb feelings of depression, smoking pot to deal with stress at home or school, relying on cocaine to boost your energy and confidence, using sleeping pills to cope with panic attacks, or taking prescription painkillers to relieve chronic back pain.
But while drugs might make you feel better in the short-term, attempts to self-medicate ultimately backfire. Instead of treating the underlying problem, drug use simply masks the symptoms. Take the drug away and the problem is still there, whether it be low self-esteem, anxiety, loneliness, or an unhappy family life. Furthermore, prolonged drug use eventually brings its own host of problems, including major disruptions to normal, daily functioning. Unfortunately, the psychological, physical, and social consequences of drug abuse and addiction become worse than the original problem you were trying to cope with or avoid.
Signs and symptoms of drug abuse and drug addiction
Although different drugs have different physical effects, the symptoms of addiction are the same no matter the substance. The more drugs begin to affect and control your life, the more likely it is that you’ve crossed the line from drug use to abuse and drug addiction. Unfortunately, when you’re in the middle of it, you may be in denial about the magnitude of the problem or the negative impact it’s had on your life. See if you recognize yourself in the following signs and symptoms of substance abuse and addiction. If so, consider talking to someone about your drug use. You’re on a dangerous road, and the sooner you get help, the better.
Common signs and symptoms of drug abuse
You’ve built up a drug tolerance. You need to use more of the drug to experience the same effects you used to with smaller amounts.
You take drugs to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms. If you go too long without drugs, you experience symptoms such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, and anxiety.
You’ve lost control over your drug use. You often take drugs or use more than you planned, even though you told yourself you wouldn’t. You may want to stop using, but you feel powerless.
Your life revolves around drug use. You spend a lot of time using and thinking about drugs, figuring out how to get them, and recovering from the drug’s effects.
You’ve abandoned activities you used to enjoy, such as hobbies, sports, and socializing, because of your drug use.
You continue to use drugs, despite knowing it’s hurting you. It’s causing major problems in your life—blackouts, infections, mood swings, depression, paranoia—but you use it anyway.