Most people don’t give a second thought to alcohol and drug use. If they do, they are more than likely to think that it’s “no big deal” and not really think of the harm that they’re doing – to themselves, their family, and the rest of society.
Let’s take a look at the ways addiction can ruin your life:
Addiction and Your Physical Health – the Disease That Makes You Sick
Addiction can wreak havoc on a person’s health, because of physical deterioration, disease, and injury:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Bleeding internally
- Cancer – Researchers at the University of Western Australia have discovered that THC in marijuana can change a person’s DNA, increasing the risk for mutations that may cause cancer and other diseases.
- Cardiovascular disease
- Delirium Tremens
- Dental issues such as “meth mouth”
- Death – 1 in 4 deaths attributable to tobacco, alcohol, or illicit drug use
- Diabetes complications such as ketoacidosis or retinopathy
- Erectile dysfunction
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
- Gynecomastia in men
- Heart Attack
- High blood pressure
- HIV – Worldwide, intravenous drug users account for 10% of HIV infections
- Injuries – Binge-drinking increases the risk of injury from violence, accidents, or car wrecks by 29%.
- Liver diseases such as cirrhosis
- Loss of brain volume
- Menstrual cycle disruption
- Nerve damage
- Overdose – Drug overdoses are now the #1 cause of accidental deaths in the United States. In 2014, 47,055 people died because of drug overdoses – an all-time high.
- Sexually-Transmitted Diseases – One study of juveniles undergoing criminal justice intake processing – a group where drug use was prevalent – found that 19% of females and 11% of males had gonorrhea, chlamydia, or both.
- Shortened lifespan – Alcoholism reduces lifespans by an average of seven-and-a-half years
- Vitamin deficiency
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome – 20% of sufferers die, and 75% are left with permanent brain damage
In addition, alcohol is associated with an elevated risk of many kinds of cancer. In fact, 1 out of every 30 cancer deaths in the United States is attributable to alcohol. That works out to 19,500 lost lives annually.
- Even taking just one drink per day can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer by 13%.
- People who drink AND smoke are 35 times more likely to develop mouth, tracheal, or esophageal cancer.
- One or more alcoholic drinks per day lead to a 70% increased risk of colon cancer.
- Three or more drinks of “hard liquor” per day increase the risk of dying from pancreatic cancer by 36%.
- 36% of all liver cancer deaths are due to excessive drinking.
Addiction and Your Mental Health – the Disease That Makes You Crazy
53% of all drug addicts and 37% of all alcoholics also have a diagnosable psychiatric condition:
- Alzheimer’s – the brain of a chronic drug user will resemble that of an early-onset Alzheimer’s patient
- Anxiety – 1 out of every 3 substance abusers also have an anxiety disorder
- Dementia – drinking can raise the risk of dementia by 200%
- Cognitive Impairment
- Depression – male addicts and alcoholics have a rate of depression that is three times higher than that of the general public, while female substance abusers suffer depression at a rate that is four times higher
- Eating disorders – up to 40% of female alcoholics have diagnosable eating disorders
- Memory Loss – people who binge-drink once or month or more are 62% more likely to show memory problems than those who don’t binge-drink
- PTSD – substance abusers are three times more likely to suffer from PTSD
- Suicide – men who abuse alcohol or drugs are two-and-a-half times more likely to kill themselves, while women substance abusers have a suicide risk that is increased sixfold
- Trauma – 90% of people in substance abuse treatment self-report having experienced a traumatic event
Addiction and Your Money – The Disease That Ruins Your Finances
Even though usage is specific to the individual addict, the financial costs for a significant habit can be exorbitant. Annual estimated costs:
- A two-gram-a-day heroin habit – over $50,000
- Illicit hydrocodone, oxycodone, or Vicodin use – $50,000
- OxyContin addiction – over $100,000
- Methamphetamine addiction – more than $30,000
- Heavy marijuana use – $10,000
- Alcoholism–a MINIMUM of $7000
In addition, there are the costs of drug rehabilitation to consider:
- Detox –as much as $7000 per week
- Outpatient Addiction Treatment –$10,000
- Inpatient Addiction Treatment – as low as $8000 and up to $32,000 per month
- Outpatient Methadone Maintenance –$6500 per year
- Luxury Drug Rehab Programs – up to $80,000 per month
Addiction and Your Relationships – The Disease That Destroys Marriages
Addiction is a lonely disease that isolates the victim while somehow also affecting everyone around them:
- Divorce – substance abusers have a risk of divorce is more than 50% higher than non-abusers
- Estrangement – Among American adults who have a substance-abusing relative, a third say that addiction has caused estrangement within the family.
- Domestic Violence – approximately 80% of domestic violence incidents are tied to substance abuse
- Homelessness – 68% of cities surveyed report that substance abuse is the #1 cause of homelessness among adults
- Sexual Assault – Approximately half of all sexual assault cases involve alcohol consumption by either the perpetrator or the victim. Among women raped in college, 72% report being so intoxicated that they were unable to consent or refuse.
Addiction and Your Children
One of the most tragic consequences of addiction is the lifelong effect it can have on the substance abuser’s children – and even grandchildren:
- Child Abuse – Substance abusers are three times more likely to abuse their children
- Conduct Disorder
- Generational Addiction – the children of alcoholics are four times more likely to become alcoholics themselves. They are three times more likely to marry an alcoholic.
- Neglect – Substance abusers are four times more likely to neglect their children
- Protective Services Involvement – substance abuse has been cited as a factor in 81% of state agency interventions
- Stunted Growth – 12% of infants were born to mothers who were heavy drinkers have altered growth and morphogenesis
Addiction and Your Job – The Disease That Will Wreck Your Career
When you are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, you may think that you’re keeping it a secret. But, on some level, your supervisors/employers always know that something is wrong, even if they are not sure about what that “something” is:
- Absenteeism – 1 out of every 6 drug abusers are more likely to skip at least one workday per month.
- Loss of security clearance – Presidential Executive Order 12564 states “Persons who use illegal drugs are not suitable for Federal Employment…”
- Serial employment – 1 out of every 8 illicit drug users admit to working for three or more employers within the past year. This compares to 1 out of 20 people in the general population.
- Termination – Employers have the right and the obligation to have a drug-free workplace.
- Unemployment – The rate of unemployment among substance abusers is triple that of the rest of the workforce.
Addiction and Your Academic Career – The Disease That Interferes with Your Education
Binge-drinking and experimentation with drugs are common among college-age students. Such behaviors also top the list of reasons why student drop out:
- Excessive Absences
- Poor Grades – Marijuana users are less than half as likely to report an average grade of “A” than nonusers.
- Behavioral Problems
Addiction and Your Freedom – the Disease That Will Make You a Criminal
Addiction hijacks the brain to the point that a person will do ANYTHING to continue using, including engaging in criminal acts. It also leads to a lack of impulse control and poor decision-making.
- Arrests – In 2015, there were 1,488,707 arrests for drug law violations in America.
- Attorney’s fees
- Interlock Devices
Addiction and Your Society – The Disease That Affects EVERYONE
The misuse of alcohol or drugs seriously impacts the individual, their family, their children, and society at large:
- Financial costs – $417 BILLION annually
- Crime – alcohol is involved in:
- 68% of manslaughter cases
- 62% of assault cases
- 54% of murder cases
- 48% of robbery cases
- 44% of burglary cases
- Health Care
- Lost Productivity
Any way you look at it, the abuse of alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription medications have a devastating effect on every area of your life – probably much more than you ever realized. The only way to mitigate this harm is by getting timely and effective professional treatment.
Integrated Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders: Treating People, Not Behaviors, by Jack Klott
Faces of Dual Diagnosis: a Canadian Perspective, by Robert B. Pereira