What Are the Dangers of Substance Abuse?

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There are many dangers associated with substance abuse that run the gamut from work and relationship issues to physical, legal, emotional and financial dangers. Although drugs often are used to escape from troubles, more often than not more problems are created. The Mayo Clinic defines drug addiction as the compulsive need for drugs despite the dangers and consequences. Not everyone who uses drugs becomes an addict, but one of the dangers of recreational substance abuse is the chance that the person will become addicted.


The National Institute on Drug Abuse offers extensive evidence of the physical dangers inherent in substance abuse. Although the physical side effects of using drugs varies depending on the kind of substance and the duration of use, there are common effects: organ damage to the liver, kidneys, heart and lungs, and communicable diseases found in the drug-using community that range from hepatitis C to HIV and AIDS. Other common physical dangers include cancer, respiratory failure and brain damage. When the body is subjected to repeated abuse, changes in hormones, body temperature and digestive processes are in danger as well.

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that drug arrests nearly tripled from 1970 to 2005. Once a person becomes addicted to drugs, the consequences of being caught holding or selling illegal substances or writing illegal prescriptions are often ignored. Because denial is one of the hallmarks of addiction, many substance abusers believe it won't happen to them. In addition to the number of people incarcerated for holding, using or selling drugs, some reports put associated offenses at more than 50 percent that are related to substance abuse. Theft, violence, vagrancy and an absence of respect for laws often are part of a drug-abusing lifestyle, creating legal dangers that lead to prison and institutionalization.


The Mayo Clinic reports that drug addiction results in physical changes to the pleasure pathways in the brain. Chronic substance abuse may lead to permanent brain damage resulting in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety and phobias, and reduced memory. In addition to the mental disorders associated with substance abuse, self-image is damaged when the addict can no longer control his actions. Friends and family members are continually hurt by the actions of the addict who cannot stop. Disrupted brain synapses cause drug users to lose control of their emotions and become irritable and anti-social. Poor decision making, coupled with an isolated lifestyle, often lead to depression and suicide. Following withdrawal from drugs, the addict then faces the ongoing danger of relapse for the rest of his life.