From Alcohol to Heroin: Why Substance Abuse is Always Dangerous

A common excuse used by the substance abuser to justify continued abuse is: “I’m not addicted – I can stop any time I want.” While this may be true – not everyone gets addicted to a drug or to alcohol at the first sip or snort – there are many dangers associated with drug abuse.

Substance abuse is “the overindulgence in and dependence on an addictive substance, especially alcohol or a narcotic drug.” Drug abuse can lead to addiction. It can also lead to broken relationships, financial hardship, and many other issues. It can also result in death.

Top Dangers of Substance Abuse

Why Substance Abuse is Always Dangerous

From Alcohol to Heroin Why Substance Abuse is Always Dangerous

Overindulgence is always dangerous. A person can overdose on anything – especially drugs or alcohol. They can make stupid decisions which put them and others in danger. When a drug is used long term, it can have a lot of negative effects upon physical and emotional health. Here are the five most common dangers of drug abuse:

  1. Addiction

    Both drugs and alcohol can cause addiction. A substance abuser can find himself addicted after chronically using a substance. When physical addiction has set in, it is marked by profound changes in brain chemistry. An individual abusing drugs may also find that they have acquired a psychological addiction. Often the symptoms of both physical and mental addiction are present. Intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms – while severe in nature – are just part of the picture when it comes to addiction.One of the most addictive street drugs available – cocaine – isn’t particularly physically addictive. It grabs hold of the brain and changes its chemistry. This change in brain chemistry makes a person feel like they are only able to experience pleasure when they are on the drug. Opiates like Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, heroin, and morphine work in a similar way, but they also cause physical addiction. Methamphetamine is a violently addictive substance. Many psychotropic drugs manufactured by pharmaceutical companies are highly addictive both physically and psychologically.Even alcohol, a legal drug, works to change brain chemistry while a person is drinking. The brains of heavy drinkers release chemicals that communicate pleasure to the rest of the body when they consume alcohol. Recent research suggests that this is why one in six Americans binge drink.

  2. Harm to Physical Health

    • Impaired judgment
    • Poor coordination
    • Headache, nausea, vomiting
    • Memory loss
    • Unconsciousness
    • Alcohol poisoning
    • Dependency and addiction

    But when alcohol has been abused over the long term, it can cause severe health issues such as:

    • Liver damage and failure
    • Heart disease
    • Birth defects in infants
    • Brain damage

    This is just from alcohol. A drug like cocaine can cause effects like:

    • Dependence and addiction
    • Tolerance to the drug (they have to take more of it to make it work)
    • Sleep deprivation
    • Malnutrition
    • Psychotic episodes
    • Depression
    • Suicide
  3. Overdose

    The human body can overdose on anything. There’s even a condition called water intoxication or water poisoning – where someone drinks so much water so fast that the effect is toxic. While a situation like water poisoning is extremely rare, there are a huge amount of drug overdoses in the United States. In 2010 there were more deaths from drug overdose than there were deaths from car accidents. The factor of overdose accounts for untold death and tragedy with 78% of drug overdoses being unintentional. Additionally, 75% of overdose deaths come from prescription pain meds. 82% of people who received treatment for drug overdose in 2011 were 21 or older.Depressants like heroin, alcohol, Xanax, and OxyContin slow down a person’s breathing and blood pressure and reduce body temperature. Known as respiratory depression, a depressant overdose causes the human body to get too little oxygen. Opiates in particular (heroin, OxyContin, Vicodin, morphine, codeine) can be fatal when overdosed or mixed with other drugs.Stimulants like cocaine, meth, ecstasy, and Adderall cause the heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature to go up. Overdose from these drugs can cause a seizure, heart attack, and death.A person abusing drugs is always opening themselves up to overdose, especially if they are a new drug user, just got clean from detox, or are mixing drugs together. Even “veteran” drug users overdose and die.

  4. Accidents

    It’s easy for a person abusing drugs to get into car accidents, have problems operating machinery, or just hurt themselves while high. Common effects of drugs and alcohol are poor coordination and a lowered ability to perceive the surrounding environment. Any drug does this – from cough syrup, alcohol, cannabis, and Vicodin to hallucinogenic mushrooms, “Molly” (crystalized MDMA), LSD, and heroin.When a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may feel as though their perceptions are somehow sharper or that they are more alert. The opposite is true. Their perception of their surroundings is distorted and their estimation of their abilities can be vastly overcompensated. A person on PCP can break their bones thinking they are invincible and not feel a thing until the drug wears off. A more common example is the person who thinks they can drive just fine while drunk. Their opinion differs when they are in the hospital or behind bars.

  5. Broken Relationships

    Drug abuse can cause emotional ups and downs – and a user might take their emotions out on those they love. Some drug users even use drugs or alcohol as an excuse for hurtful or even dangerous behavior. Saying “Sorry, I was too drunk to know what I was doing,” after beating your spouse or significant other doesn’t usually solve the broken trust. Those around a substance abuser may distance themselves to prevent physical or emotional harm.Substance abuse can become all-consuming – turning into addiction. This is evidenced by the individual’s life turning into the pursuit of their drug of choice – or any substance to get them high. This can make a person lose their job, cause broken marriages, hurt friendships, and ruin the lives of those around the person abusing drugs.No matter what substance is being abused, it is important to get help before your health, your relationships, your life, and the lives of others are harmed permanently.


National Institute on Drug Abuse and Addiction

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