What Areas of Life Does Addiction Affect?

02/19/20: Addiction
Addiction finds a way to creep into all the nooks and crannies in your life, no matter how much you think you can control it. It is a merciless disease that can rapidly destroy you from the inside out if you do not seek help early on. This article will discuss the main areas in an addicts' life that can be affected by addiction, among many, many others. Here are the most common:

Mental Effects of Addiction

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 45 percent of addicts have a co-occurring mental health disorder. Co-occurring disorders (or dual-diagnosis) are essentially two or more mental health disorder diagnoses that present in a patient at the same time. In addicts, the addiction issue would be one of the disorders, while another simultaneously-occurring mental health disorder would be the second, and thus follows. Addiction is often the cause or result of another mental health disorder due to the brain-altering effects of the disease. Some common mental health disorders that co-occur with addiction are:
  • ADHD. Approximately 25 percent of adults that go to a treatment center for alcohol and substance abuse also live with ADHD (Addiction Center). ADHD may cause a person to experience difficulty paying attention, staying still, coping with boredom, performing tedious tasks, and they may be impulsive or hyperactive. ADHD is usually treated with stimulants, which can be highly addictive. People with ADHD may also turn to other kinds of drugs and alcohol to calm their busy minds.
  • Bipolar I and II. Bipolar I is characterized by periods of depression and mania, while Bipolar II has lows of depression but no real manic episodes, only hypomania (which is much less serious). A person is susceptible to turning to substances to either cope with the lows or consume while they’re feeling euphoric in their manic or hypomanic state.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) can experience distorted self-image, impulsiveness, extreme emotions, and intense, unstable relationships. Aside from substance abuse disorder, these individuals are also susceptible to other mental health struggles such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, etc. Over two-thirds of people with BPD have turned toward substance abuse at some point in their lives (Addiction Center).
  • Depression. Depression can make a person feel extremely sad, hopeless, empty inside, etc. It can have severe effects on a person’s capabilities to take care of themselves and maintain relationships. People with depression may become addicts to escape the deep feelings of sadness that they may be experiencing. This is why an estimated one-third of people with major depression also have an alcohol problem (Addiction Center).
  • Eating disorders. Eating disorders are generally defined by abnormal eating patterns. This can range from a severe restriction of food to extreme overconsumption (also known as binge eating). Either way, an unhealthy relationship with food and emotional disturbances usually accompanies these kinds of disorders. An eating disorder can be an addiction in and of itself. A person could be addicted to counting calories, or conversely addicted to consuming large amounts of food.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). People with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are often plagued by constant, irrational worry about everyday occurrences. Reality can become very exhausting, especially in social situations. For this reason, these individuals may use drugs or alcohol to “shut off” their worries for a while. It is estimated that around 20 percent of those who have an anxiety disorder also have a substance use disorder (Addiction Center).
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD). OCD is an anxiety disorder that causes a person to develop recurring thoughts that cause irrational fears and anxieties. People with OCD usually form “rituals” such as tapping, washing hands, organizing, etc. They can feel as though if they do not perform these rituals, something bad will happen. The Journal of Anxiety Disorders estimates that over 25 percent of those who seek treatment for OCD also meet the criteria for a substance use disorder.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A person typically develops PTSD from witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event which causes long-term emotional disturbances. PTSD is common among victims of serious accidents or injuries, natural disasters, acts of terrorism, sexual or physical assault, military combat, or death. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, nearly three-quarters of those surviving violent or abusive trauma report alcohol use disorders.
  • Schizophrenia. Individuals with schizophrenia have difficulty in distinguishing the imaginary from reality. They may experience hallucinations or delusions that affect their ability to function in society. People with schizophrenia are very susceptible to forming a dual-diagnosis with substance abuse disorder: An estimated 50 percent of individuals suffering from schizophrenia have a history as addicts.
In addition to diagnosable disorders, addiction can lead to a lot of general mental health concerns such as sadness, anxiety, isolation, etc.

Physical Effects

Probably the most obvious side effects of addiction are those that affect the addicts' physical health. These are often the most obvious and difficult to overlook. Physical symptoms can manifest in a person’s appearance, which makes them the most telling signs for loved ones. Each drug or substance can cause varying physical effects on a person. Here are some of the side effects of the most harmful substances:

Alcohol

  • Brain damage
  • Cirrhosis
  • Fibrosis
  • Hepatitis
  • High blood pressure
  • Inflammation
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Kidney disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Weakened immune system

Cocaine 

  • Bowel decay (if swallowed)
  • Convulsions and seizures
  • HIV or hepatitis (if injected)
  • Headaches
  • Heart attack
  • Heart disease
  • Lung damage
  • Mood problems
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sinus issues (nosebleeds, dry nose, etc)
  • Stroke

Heroin 

  • Brain damage
  • Cold flashes
  • Diarrhea
  • HIV or hepatitis (if injected)
  • Hormonal changes
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Physical dependence (which leads to withdrawal symptoms)
  • Vomiting

Social Effects

The irony here is that often times, addicts turn to drugs to help them be more sociable — but this always backfires. These individuals may feel that the drugs make them more outgoing, confident, funny, etc. But drugs cause physical disruptions in the brain that affect a person’s ability to judge, make decisions, and regulate their behavior, which can create a rift in relationships without the user being conscious that they are occurring. Addicts will often engage in extremely risky, erratic behavior in order to continue using their drug of choice. It will push them into doing things they would have never done before. Not only this, but they will begin to isolate themselves from family and friends. They will typically cease engaging in activities that they once enjoyed. They will begin replacing lost, healthy friendships with new ones that enable their drug use. Addicts are resistant to surrounding themselves with people who will encourage them to seek treatment, especially if they are adamant that they do not have a problem. They do not want to hear that what they are doing is damaging.

Financial Effects

It’s a no-brainer that addictive substances and addictions in general cost money. And since we’re talking about an addiction, we know it is going to be a consistent, sustained expense that will add up greatly over time. Also, it is inevitable that tolerance will begin building, meaning a person will need to consume more and more of the substance in one sitting as time goes on to achieve the same “high”. Addiction also hi-jacks the brain’s reward system and takes away a person’s ability to feel satisfaction for doing simple things like finding success in their career, saving for big-ticket items and vacations, achieving financial goals, and more. This leads to financial obligations falling to the wayside. Not to mention, if addiction gets too bad, it may lead to the individual losing their job and source of income. Bills and unpaid debts will begin to add up, and without a means to acquire the funds necessary to pay them, the person can be left in a deep hole. This is why so many people who fall into addiction end up homeless and on the streets, which adds even more barriers to receiving treatment.

Legal Effects

If substance abuse gets too out of hand, it can lead to severe legal troubles. These can be financially related, criminal, or simply due to being caught in possession of an illegal substance. As we mentioned earlier, addiction can cause a person to engage in reckless, dangerous behavior that is out of character for them. They may even commit crimes to get their next fix, which unfortunately can land them in major legal trouble. Court costs and attorney fees can be a huge financial burden, as well as the prospect of having to serve time in jail or prison. Not to mention the social effects of having a permanent criminal record.

Seek help ASAP if you or a loved one is struggling with addiction

The troubles that addiction causes in a person’s life and the lives of their loved ones can become severe extremely quickly. Addiction ruins lives, and the sooner an addicted individual gets help, the better. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, reach out to a treatment center as soon as possible to start your professional, supervised recovery.

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