Psychological and physiological effects of drug addiction

The physiological and psychological effects of drug addiction and abuse are often devastating and tend to vary depending on the type of drug being abused and the duration of abuse. According to Brick (2012), drug addiction puts its sufferers at a risk of potential devastating social, occupational and medical complications. Drug use affects the brain and in the process alters an individual’s feelings. More often people want to use drugs so as to be in a state of euphoria and fell “cool”. Users attribute the use of these drugs as a means to forgetting their social-economic problems and avoid other social distress. Psychologically, addiction to drugs or withdrawal produces severe symptoms such as euphoria, ecstasy, intoxication, paranoia, severe depression and suicidal thoughts. Radin (2009) asserts that addiction often cause mood disorders like depression, anxiety, fear, thought disorders and other personality and antisocial behaviors. For many people, drug addiction lead to disorganization of cognitive functions characterized by fragmentation and disturbance of memory and frequent shifts of attention hence disrupting the normal flow of ideas.

Abuse of sedatives and hypnotics meant to reduce depression in the nervous system cause death by respiratory arrests for its addicts and those who overdose or mix the drugs with others depressants such as opiates. It is well documented that opiates, such as cocaine and morphine decrease the functioning of the nervous system which can cause death when severe. Excessive use of opiates stops a person’s breathing process leading to death. Addiction to hallucinogens such as mescaline alters users’ perceptions. For instance, a person may perceive danger where there is none and think that dangerous situations are not (Al’absi, 2007). This makes them behave inappropriately.

Intoxication with drugs and other substances can have physiological effects that include lack of sleep, breathlessness especially with the use of Heroin, increased heart rate after cocaine use and seizures that occur when withdrawing from alcohol consumption. Continued drug use leads to tolerance, which requires a person to use more and more of a drug in repeated efforts to achieve the same effects. This leads to overdose as drugs differ considerably in their ability to develop tolerance and can cause numerous medical complications. Radin (2009) asserts that a drug addict can achieve a daily level that is approximately 200 times the dose that would be disastrous to a healthy pain-free person.

Deprivation or withdrawal of a drug upon which the body has physical dependence triggers a number of reactions that are dependent on the amount and the duration within which the drug has been in use. For instance, addicts withdrawing from heroin may experience insomnia, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and diarrhea. Some people experience fever and dehydration while others develop high blood pressure (Moal & Koob, 2007). Toxicity from drugs is harmful to the brain and impairs cognitive abilities and functioning. Drug dependence can cause insanity incase of overdose, and may reduce an individual into an imbecile when not in the influence of the drug. Chronic use of marijuana results to debilitation of the will and mental deterioration (Drug use, 2015). Major accidents and injuries happen after one has been intoxicated by drugs.

Social and economic effects of drug addiction

Addiction does not only affect the addict; it has profound effects on families, their relationships, health care professionals, and the society as a whole. Drug addiction increases risks of mood swings, domestic violence and often leads to breakup of relationships. It may also result in embarrassment of the addict’s family. At the community level, drug addiction may result to increase in crime rates. Drug addicted individuals are frequently involved in physical fighting, aggressiveness, participating in criminal activities and stealing to fund their habit and other activities with devastating consequences for the addict and people around him/her.  Jordan, (2006) asserts that people who abuse drugs are at health risks of developing mental illness, STIs, HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies and birth defects for addicted mothers. This puts a lot of pressure on healthcare systems, and such patients become an economic burden to their families and the society as a whole. Addicted individuals are more likely to lose their jobs and find it difficult to get other jobs compared to non-addicts. This results to loss of income that leading in breakdown of relationships and divorce. Children brought up by parents who are drug addicts are prone to receiving poor social, educational and health functioning lives. Women who are addicted to drugs such as alcohol suffer physiological consequences, health issues and medical problems related to gynecology (Verster et al., 2012).

Treatment of drug addiction

If treated, the prognosis for drug addiction improves but is not without challenges. The treatment plan should be modified continually to meet the addict’s needs and should be varied depending on the type of drug abused.  Recovery is often characterized by episodes of remission and relapse. The primary goals of substance abuse treatment are abstinence, relapse prevention, and rehabilitation. According to Hernandez, Singleton & Aronzon (2001), treatment of mental illness and substance dependency should be integrated by the provision of interventions for both disorders. These interventions may include assessment, intensive case management, motivation intervention, behavior intervention, family treatment and rehabilitation and medication treatment. Detoxification by use of controlled medication is necessary during the initial stages to lessen withdrawal symptoms. For instance, people addicted to alcohol might be given disulfiram, which produces nausea, stomach cramping and vomiting when addicts consume alcohol while those addicted to narcotics can be offered a combination of aspirin and oxycodone hydrochloride. Withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, depression, anxiety and restlessness can be treated by acomprosate treatment (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2009).

Behavioral treatment is also important as it allows the addicts to participate in the treatment process, modify their attitudes and behavior related to substance abuse. Severely addicted individuals with relapses and mental illness need higher structure and support and monitoring in an inpatient drug treatment center often known as a rehab where they are provided counseling and continuous sobriety support on a daily basis (Jordan, 2006).


Al’absi, M. (2007). Stress and addiction: Biological and psychological mechanisms. USA:         Elsivier Ltd.

Brick, J. (2012). A handbook of the medical consequences of alcohol and drug abuse (2nd Ed). New York: Routledge.

Drug use. (2015). In Encyclopædia Britannica.        http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/172024/drug-use/40526/Physiological-and-            psychological-effects-of-cannabis.

Hernandez, C.G., Singleton, J.K. & Aronzon, D.Z. (2001). Primary care Pediatrics. USA:          Lippincott Williams &Wilkins.

Jordan, J. B. (2006). Acupuncture treatment for opiate addiction: A systematic review. Journal             of Substance Abuse Treat, 30, (4), 309–314.

Moal, M. L. & Koob, G. F. (2007). Drug addiction: Pathways to the disease and            pathophysiological perspectives. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 17, 377-393.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2009). Treatment approaches for drug addiction.      www.drugabuse.gov.

Radin, S. S. (2009). Psychological Aspects of Drug addiction. Journal of school health, 36, (10),          481-484.

Verster, J. et al., (2012). Drug abuse and addiction in medical illness: Causes, consequences and           treatment. New York: Springer.

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