For the vast majority of people, drug addiction originates with recreational use, youthful experimentation or even a valid physician’s prescription. However, as drug use prolongs, emotional and physical changes begin to occur within the brain and body, quickly segueing to full-blown addiction.
Once drug addiction has taken hold, it doesn’t discriminate, affecting individuals from every economic strata, ethnicity, gender and locale. Many addicts find themselves powerless to stop using on their own. Historical studies have shown that drug addiction prolongs until successful detoxification and addiction treatment takes place, with the highest chances at recovery tending to come from inpatient, residential drug addiction treatment programs.
Universal Symptoms of Drug Addiction
Though symptoms can range by drug of choice, certain signs of drug addiction have become widely recognized as universal. Trademark symptoms of an existing drug addiction include failures to stop drug use despite increasing consequence, heightening levels of use, tolerance to analgesic or euphoric effects of drugs, and withdrawal symptoms that set in when use suddenly ceases.
Addicted individuals also generally become preoccupied with drug use, making plans for the next dosage, growing agitated when drug stashes deplete and isolating themselves from friends and family in order to engender further use. Many addicted individuals also engage in unhealthy or illegal activities in order to finance drug use, such as mounting credit card debt, stealing, medical fraud, prostitution or street purchase.
During the descent into drug addiction, many individuals also experience unpredictable mood swings — and may have disproportionately negative, punishing or even violent reactions to those who suggest they obtain help. Such responses in the wake of drug addiction are often accompanied with minimization, justification or blame-shifting — collective hallmarks of denial that occurs alongside drug use.
Physical Consequences of Drug Addiction
If drug addiction remains untreated, the body can begin to break down due to the constant presence of toxic substances — and in some cases, death can even become a liability. In fact, the vast majority of drugs affect the body’s Central Nervous System (CNS), leading to high physical risks such as seizures, strokes, respiratory problems, failing organs, heart attack and the onset of coma.
Addictive drugs have also been correlated with the evolution of a variety of cancers, immunity problems and blood-borne transmittable diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. Of course, one of the most severe physical consequences that can arise from untreated drug addiction is accidental overdose, most frequently occurring when users attempt to re-achieve a high in the wake of building tolerance, or combine their drug of choice with other drugs or alcohol.
Psychological Harm Caused by Drug Addiction
For many drug-addicted individuals, the ongoing presence of drugs in the system begins to alter natural brain chemistry in ways that affect them psychologically. Many drug-addicted individuals will experience anxiety, cognitive delays, difficulties forming or retrieving memories, and verbal or spatial function disintegration as the result of continued drug use.
Personality disorders and even serious mental conditions can be triggered by drug addiction as well, even to the point where users experience psychotic breaks or the onset of dissociative disorders or schizophrenia. Ongoing and untreated drug addiction can also lead to rapid and harsh mood swings, irritability and depression, sudden aggression, clouded thought processes, and in the worst cases, clinical depression so severe it segues to suicidal ideation and actual attempts on one’s own life.