What Is the Long-Term Outlook for a Person with Untreated Addiction?
Drug and alcohol addiction is a chronic condition. While it is possible to overcome the effects of addiction and enter recovery, relapse is always possible. If you are using substances, you may not feel like there is much hope to change, especially if you’ve developed a physical dependence on the drug/s and experience strong cravings for it.
But there is always hope.
Professional treatment can help people stop allowing substances to control their lives.
What If You Don’t Get Help for Addiction?
If you’re suffering from addiction, you may wonder what will happen to you if you don’t seek treatment. Maybe you still feel in control of your life and that you’re doing “fine” without help. Many people can go years managing an addiction without serious consequences. But the consequences will come. Addiction is a progressive illness. Here are some potential complications.
The Psychological Effects of Addiction
Many people with addiction struggle with mental health as well. They may have a mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or bipolar disorder. Even if a person doesn’t have a formal disorder, they may struggle with the psychological effects of addiction. These may include:
- Mood disorders
- Struggling with decision making
- Feeling intense anxiety when they do not use drugs
- Facing depression on a routine basis
- Experiencing paranoia when using drugs, including cocaine or marijuana
It’s estimated that 7.7 million people in the U.S. have co-occurring mental health disorders and substance use disorders, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Of the 20.3 million adults in the country with a substance abuse disorder, about 37.9 percent of them have a mental illness as well. Of the 42.1 million adults with some type of mental health disorder, 18.2 percent of them also have a substance use disorder.
The Physical Effects
Long-term drug and alcohol addiction also causes changes within the body. Substances are toxic to the body, especially when used for long periods of time or in high doses. As a result, there are numerous potential implications depending on the type of substance used. Here are some examples.
- Kidney disease: The kidneys cannot filter out the substances fast enough to keep the body healthy; as a result, they suffer damage and stop working properly. Some substances cause dehydration while others may lead to muscle breakdown, both of which put the kidneys at risk for failure.
- Heart damage: Some drugs cause the heart to speed up, beating at a very fast rate. It is possible that this can lead to a sudden heart attack. However, it can also lead to the development of an irregular heartbeat and, over time, heart failure, a condition in which the heart’s muscle cannot pump hard enough to meet the needs of the body.
- Liver disease: Many people recognize that alcohol abuse can damage the liver, but other drugs can as well, including steroids, opioids, and inhalants. These substances overwork the liver until it cannot function as it needs to. This can lead to inflammation of the liver, scarring, and cancer in some situations.
- Lung damage: Any type of inhalant can cause damage to the lungs, making it harder for a person to breathe. Over time, drugs like opioids and alcohol can also impact the lungs. Without good lung function, the body does not get the oxygen it needs, leading to other organ failures.
- Brain damage: Consistent use of drugs or alcohol can lead to brain damage. That includes the development of addiction and dependence but also changes to the way the brain works. Cognitive function decline and memory problems are two of the most common problems.
Overcoming Addiction May Slow or Stop These Changes
A person who invests in themselves and obtains the necessary treatment for drug and alcohol addiction may be able to slow the progression of these outcomes or, in some cases, reverse the damage. The key is getting help. If you need help as a veteran or an adult struggling with addiction, let our team provide support to you.
While it may seem daunting and difficult to get the help necessary for addition, it doesn’t have to be. Our team provides you with a safe place to work through addiction and the damage it’s caused both mentally and physically.
At any point in your life, you can begin to heal from addiction. The sooner you take action, the more likely you are to see improvements.
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