The consequences that are associated with addiction also have long-term effects on a person’s health. Like the short-term effects that are associated with substance abuse and dependency, the lasting impact that addiction has on a person’s health varies according to the substance that he or she is using. For instance, the long-term effects of prescription pain medications, such as OxyContin, Percocet, and Fentanyl, can include restlessness, muscle spasms, bone and joint pain, structural damage of the brain, and hormonal and neuronal imbalances. The long-term effects of alcoholism can damage to the liver, kidneys, heart, pancreas, and gastrointestinal system. Long-term alcohol abuse can also cause irreversible damage to the brain.
No matter which substance a person is abusing, with long-term use, his or her tolerance will increase, which will only lead to increased use of the substance. The more a substance is abused, the stronger the physical dependency will grow. Dependency leads to withdrawal when the person stops using the drugs or alcohol. The body and brain become reliant on the chemicals that drugs or alcohol contains, and when those chemicals are absent, a number of adverse symptoms can occur.
Withdrawal symptoms vary and can range in severity. Again, the type of substance that is being abused and the length of time the person has abused it will affect side effects that are associated with withdrawal; however, some of these symptoms can include:
- Intense itching
- Profuse sweating
- Muscles aches and spasms
- Heart palpitations
- Hallucinations and delusions (delirium tremens)
In the most severe cases, the side effects of withdrawal can be life-threatening