Many people use drugs recreationally for fun and to heighten their awareness. Others use drugs for the medicinal purposes for which they were intended, such as to relieve physical pain and to promote healing.
But when drugs are used to the point of physical and psychological dependence – regardless of whether their use is legal or illegal – it becomes a condition known as drug addiction or drug abuse. Dependence on drugs, alcohol, or other substances or behaviors such as gambling or sex refers to a cluster of behavioral, mental and physical symptoms that can occur over time.
Usually, they take the form of a strong craving to continue to take drugs or participate in the behavior even though there are known negative consequences to your life. These can include such things as the deterioration of your physical health, problems with your home life and relationships, and damage or destruction to your career.
People who are addicted to drugs like meth, cocaine, heroin and others often tend to make taking those drugs the highest priority in their life, above social, occupational, interpersonal, and scholastic activities and obligations.
But there can be other unintentional side effects of taking drugs to the point of addiction as well.
One of the most common unintended side effects is getting a criminal history. People who need to take drugs often are willing to do anything necessary in order to feed their addiction. This can include theft, robbery, prostitution and other activities that would otherwise be unthinkable if they were leading their normal life.
Even the process of getting illegal drugs can put you in a position where you are likely to be arrested and charged with a crime, such as a drug possession or intention to distribute, both of which can result in lengthy prison sentences.
Unhealthy Weight Loss
When you are addicted to drugs, getting and taking drugs is your primary ambition every day. Normal activities such as eating and sleeping take a back seat. In fact, drug addicts can sometimes go for days without eating because they are so consumed by their need to take their drug of choice.
The result is sudden and dramatic weight loss. People who are addicted to certain drugs can sometimes take on a particular body type that includes extremely thin arms and legs, sunken eyes, pallid skin, and generalized weakness.
Another common side effect of drug abuse is a higher incidence of bacterial and viral infections. People who use drugs tend to get sick more often than people who aren’t addicted to drugs. Part of this is caused by the effect their addiction has on their body’s natural immune system. When you don’t get the proper nutrition you need, your body doesn’t have the weapons it needs to fight off infection.
Another reason is that there are new and multiple pathways to infection. In other words, bacteria and viruses can enter your body more freely when you use pipes, needles and other paraphernalia to take drugs. Plus, drug use is frequently a social activity. So when you share these things with other people, your chances of catching whatever they have is higher.
Probably the worse virus that drug addicts are more prone to than normal people is HIV/AIDS. This is a virus that is transmitted through blood-to-blood contacts, such as sharing a needle with an infected person or through having anal sex when you are high on drugs.
While HIV/AIDS is not the death sentence it once was – there are now treatments that can keep somebody with the virus alive for many years – it can have a profound effect on your physical health. And there is no known cure, so you need to be very careful not to spread it to anybody else for the rest of your life, including your unborn children.
Mental Illness and Brain Damage
Many mental illnesses are genetic: You probably won’t get things like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder unless you are genetically predisposed to them. In other words, if your parents or grandparents didn’t have them, you probably won’t develop them either.
But that’s not the case if you are addicted to drugs. While the exact effects of taking dangerous drugs over a long period of time aren’t truly understood – the brain remains the body’s most mysterious organ – what is known is that drugs can affect the way some areas of the brain that effect logical thought operate.
Most people don’t usually think about their long-term financial security when they party with drugs. But if you become addicted to the point where you need to take drugs all the time just to stay healthy, eventually you are going to face financial ruin because you will have to spend all of your money on drugs.
These are only six of the unintended side effects of drug addiction. There are dozens more. So before you start using drugs such as cocaine, meth, heroin and other addictive substances, you should consider the long-term consequences.