Developing an addiction takes time and does not happen overnight. The brain responds to drugs differently from person to person, and the speed at which people develop a substance dependence varies due to factors such as age, size, gender, genetics, and more. However, despite the many ways in which the body and mind respond to drug use and addiction, one thing remains a constant: addiction always brings a slew of negative effects to the table, many of which consistently interfere with ordinary everyday life, and leave most people struggling to maintain a sense of normalcy.
The earlier an addiction is identified and treated, the better. While life is best lived without access to addictive drugs, the reality is that many Americans were exposed to drugs like nicotine and alcohol at a young age, while many others rely on the therapeutic effectiveness of drugs like opioids and amphetamines to cope with pain and illness. Others struggle mentally and find drugs to be the only effective outlet for their pain. But when a person passes the threshold from casual use to addiction, there’s no effective argument in favor of continued drug use. Here are a few ways in which an addiction can change your life for the worse.
Time & Money
An addiction costs a serious amount of money. One of the lifestyle consequences of addiction are financial ruin, due to the sheer cost of drugs, recovery, and potential legal costs. Aside from being financially-draining, addiction is time-draining. Many addicts lose track of time due to their mental state, struggling with memory problems, bouts of insomnia, inconsistent sleeping schedules, and entire days lost on drug use.
One of the characteristics of an addiction is the obsession with substance abuse, and the total dependence on it. A person can’t seem to function without their fix, and they can’t function while high. While an addiction doesn’t start on that extreme level, it unfortunately often develops in that direction. The costs of an addiction are not always obvious – to many addicts, they find excuses for their behavior or unconsciously seek ways to justify their behavior in the beginning stages of the problem. However, it becomes harder and harder to hide and manage the behavior as time goes on. Often, it’s then when addiction begins to eat into other aspects of life.
Eroding Relationships and Trust
Next only to the potential loss of life caused by addiction is the loss of trust and the destruction of many relationships built on years of prior experience. An addiction can cause a person to completely lose the trust of those they love, beginning with the inner conflict between trying to maintain control of one’s life and the irresistible pull of an addiction, and culminating in severed ties and feelings of guilt and shame, leading to an intensifying of addictive habits as a way to cope with the loss of a partner or loved one’s trust.
Because an addiction is often insidious and develops slowly over time, it can become difficult to comprehend and differentiate the addiction from your own thoughts and behaviors – which only makes the pain of disappointing those you love that much more painful, as you feel that you failed not only them, but yourself. This erosion of self-esteem and self-efficacy is often compounded by an intense stigma against addicts and addiction developed by a misunderstanding of addiction and the way it functions as a chronic brain disease. Fixing trust issues after an addiction – and addressing the damage dealt to many relationships – can be one of the harder aspects of addiction recovery.
Struggling with Workplace Commitments
As an addiction grows, it becomes more difficult to keep track of responsibilities and priorities. Because one of the characteristics of addiction is the inability to prioritize anything over the addictive behavior itself, many responsibilities and commitments fall to the wayside.
This does not always have to lead to loss of employment. Some employers are willing to support their employees in their recovery, if they are forthcoming about their condition and earnest in their desire to recover. Other employees fear and worry that revealing their addiction will only lose them their job, causing them to try and deny or hide their behavior for as long as possible, avoiding potential treatment for fear of being found out.
Failing to Keep Up Appearances
The same issue can heavily affect a person’s social commitments. It becomes harder to commit to meeting up with friends and keeping track of a healthy social life while going off the deep end. Many addicts end up building material friendships with other addicts around them. Others withdraw entirely.
Make no mistake, however, an addiction will heavily affect the way you spend time with people, when you do end up spending time with people. Many people become addicted to a drug due to their friends to begin with, in which case, they often develop a greater commitment to their friends than any other group, either because they feel more accepted, or because they need a reliable source for their fix.
Drug use severely affects the human body, beginning with the effects of addiction in the brain and culminating with organ damage over long periods of time, and deaths caused by drug overdose symptoms or the long-term effects of drug use. Stimulants severely affect the heart and brain, for example, increasing the risk of a stroke or heart disease. Depressants can kill a person by causing respiratory arrest and brain death and damage the liver and kidneys. Alcohol contributes to the development of over half a dozen different cancers, and heavy alcohol use diminishes cognitive function, affects memory and decision making, and tears apart the liver.
Many other deleterious effects are a consequence of the high itself, from sexually-transmitted diseases caused by risky sexual encounters fueled by drug use, to automobile accidents and more.
Drugs and Mental Health
Drug use is tied to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, not only in the sense that teens and adults with mental health problems are more prone to addiction, but also in the sense that these issues can develop in people as a result of substance abuse and substance dependence. Returning to a normal everyday life after addiction can be extraordinarily difficult due to the way drug use can change a person’s brain over time, requiring a long-term commitment to recovery and mental healthcare as a way to overcome the effects of addiction and enjoy a happier life.
Addiction affects a person’s everyday life in a variety of ways, but that doesn’t mean any given addict is going to experience all of these issues together. Individual factors change how an addiction is likely to affect you. These factors also change the efficacy of different treatments. By examining how an addiction developed and how it affected a person’s life, addiction specialists can determine how best to help you. But the process is a long one, and it can involve trial and error. Support from others is just as important as the treatment itself, whether that support comes from family members, friends, professionals, or all of the above.