Understanding the Effects of Prolonged Substance Use

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Substance use disorders can have profoundly negative effects on one’s physical and mental health. The longer that substances are used, the more severe these effects can be. In some cases, prolonged substance use can have permanent, even deadly, consequences.

Effects of Substance Abuse on the Body

The physical effects of substance abuse may vary based on the illicit substances one uses. However, any drug or substance has the potential to affect the body in more ways than one. Here are some of the bodily systems that may be affected by prolonged substance use:

1. Gastrointestinal System

Substance use can lead to acid reflux and chronic pain due to damage and decay in the stomach and intestinal tract. Opioids specifically can depress the function of the intestines, which can cause constipation.

2. Respiratory System

In much the same way that opioids depress intestinal function, they can also depress breathing. This can be dangerous for anyone, but people with asthma who also use opioids may experience worse symptoms.

However, it’s not only opioids that have the potential to damage the respiratory system. Any substance that is smoked has the potential to cause chronic lung diseases such as:

  • Lung cancer
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Emphysema/COPD

3. Cardiovascular System

Controlled substances, particularly stimulants, have the potential to damage your heart. This can result in a number of conditions, including heart attacks and abnormal heart rates. Injecting substances into your blood vessels can lead to infection or collapse.

4. Liver and Kidneys

Your liver and kidneys perform vital and necessary functions for your body. Substance use can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening damage to these organs. When alcohol is also included in the mix, liver damage from prescription opioids or heroin can become even more severe.

5. Brain

Perhaps the most dramatic physical effects that can result from substance use are in the brain. Use of substances results changes to the brain itself, which is partially why overcoming addiction is so difficult. Due to the toxic nature of many of these substances, brain cells can die as a result of exposure. Unlike many structures of the body, once brain cells die, they can never regenerate.

Effects of Substance Abuse on the Mind

Psychological effects of substance use are often related to changes in the brain. One may observe the following changes to mental health as a result of prolonged drug use:

  • Mood disorders, especially anxiety and/or depression.
  • Changes in memory.
  • Impaired cognitive function, making it more difficult to think and learn.
  • Changes in appetite and/or eating disorders.

If one is already suffering from a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety disorder, substance use can worsen these pre-existing conditions. Co-occurring disorders can have complex physical and mental effects on the body, making them difficult to overcome. In these situations, it’s recommended that professional help is sought after immediately.

Treatment is Available

Regardless of one’s history with substances, help is available. High Focus Centers practices holistic treatment techniques to help patients overcome substance use. If you are seeking professional help, contact High Focus Centers today. A member of our team will explain how we can help direct you down the path to wellness.