How Risky Drug Usage Impacts You
Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash
Written by: Sabrina Sourjah
Date Updated: 2/23/2021
Reviewed by: Patrick D. Randolph, Ph.D.
When one starts using substances, the brain discharges dopamine, a chemical related to pleasurable activities. Dopamine creates a temporary sense of fulfillment that in turn motivates us to repeat the behavior. Pleasurable activities like eating tasty food, having sex, or falling in love can also increase our dopamine rush.
Adults who have substance use disorders generally started using the substance in their adolescence. The risk of experimenting with various substances like heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, or other illegal drugs is high in teenagers as the teenage brain is still developing parts of the brain that control judgment, self-control, and future-planning. Teenagers are therefore primed for experimenting and gaining peer approval.
Stages of Substance Use
There are five stages of substance use. First, we start experimenting with various substances, mostly during adolescence. Then, we move on to regularly using the substance as a part of life. This doesn’t necessarily mean daily use, but usage frequently occurs in predictable, routine circumstances.
Risky use is the third stage, and individuals experience adverse impacts on their relationships, financial status, and overall health in this stage. The fourth stage is dependence, wherein we start depending on the substance to deal with life challenges. Regardless of the adverse impact witnessed, the usage is continued.
The final stage of substance use is addiction. Substance use is compulsive and cannot be controlled in this stage. Changes in the physical and psychological makeup can occur in this stage, you will require help from external resources to overcome this stage.
Impact of Risky Drug Use
1. Overall Health
Certain drugs can cause cancers and serious dental issues while damaging the nervous system. Sharing injection equipment or engaging in unsafe practices can result in contracting infections like HIV and hepatitis C. Exposure to bacteria by injections can lead to heart disease and lung disease.
In extreme cases, risky drug usage can cause an overdose that may end with death if unattended. Experts believe that long-term drug abuse can create damage throughout your body.
2. Surgery Outcomes
Veins and arteries can get damaged or crushed through frequent injection of drugs. The nasal septum can also suffer due to drugs that are inhaled through the nose. Body packing and stuffing to transport or conceal illicit drugs can lead to bowel obstruction or issues with the vagina and rectum. These impacts can cause complications during and after surgery.
Research estimates that risky drug usage has had a notable impact on US mortality. If not for drug usage, “probability of dying between ages 15 and 65 would have continued to decline after 2010 among men (from 16.2% in 2010 to 15.4% in 2016) and would have remained at a low level (9.9% in 2010, 10.0% in 2016) among women.” With the overall health impacts mentioned above, this is not surprising.
4. Life Satisfaction
Although research is yet to answer whether life dissatisfaction causes drug use or vice versa, there is evidence to conclude that there is a strong relationship between marijuana, cocaine, and injection drugs with decreased life satisfaction. Impact on overall health and social systems alone can drive individuals to an unfulfilled life.
5. Mental Health
Some mental illnesses like depression or anxiety can encourage individuals to seek refuge in drugs to curtail the impact of these illnesses, at least temporarily. This ultimately causes more damage in the long term when compared with the short-term relief one may get.
On the other hand, drug usage can create or worsen mental instability in healthy individuals due to weakened health, relationships, and general well-being. Traumatic behavior can also increase in drug users due to driving or getting into fights under the influence.
Factors Contributing to Drug Addiction
Understanding your risk of becoming addicted can encourage you to take preventative actions. Biological factors like genetics, developmental stage, sensitivity to drugs, mental illness, gender, and ethnicity can contribute to your risk of addiction.
In addition to our biology, environmental factors such as family dynamics, availability of drugs, stress, and peer influence can cause the risk of addiction to increase.
If your risk profile is high, you can increase healthy, controllable activities that trigger dopamine. Examples of such activities include exercise, increased intake of probiotics and protein, meditation, sunlight exposure, adequate sleep, and relaxation through music.