Have you ever mistakenly texted someone thinking you were in conversation with someone else? If so, you understand how one man in Louisiana felt when he inadvertently arranged a drug sale via text – with a deputy.
When Sheriff Leland Falcon of Assumption Parish received a text requesting to arrange a delivery of crystal meth, he quickly agreed to the transaction and notified the Narcotics Division. According to police, the man came to the drop with crystal meth and two guns. He was arrested on charges of possession of a firearm in the presence of a controlled substance, possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute, and two counts of resisting an officer.
It sounds like an unbelievable mistake, truly the worst possible luck. But the fact is that when drug and alcohol use is at high levels, things very often go wrong – and not just little things, but big things that have a life-changing impact.
What consequences are your loved one and your family facing due to untreated addiction?
In most cases, the consequences of drug abuse and addiction gradually build over time. Loved ones often notice little by little that changes are taking place. For example, the person struggling with drug abuse may come home later and later until they don’t come home at all one night and eventually stay away for days at a time. Similarly, someone living with an active addiction may be later and later to work until they finally miss a day or more and lose their job, and then need money more frequently than they did before as their resources increasingly go toward the purchase of drugs and alcohol. In the same way, health problems, relationship issues, and legal difficulties usually start small and crescendo slowly over time until the person is dealing with significant problems across a multitude of fronts, and their family is struggling right along with them, wondering how things progressed to this point.
The good news is that when family members begin to notice issues cropping up, they have the option to take action and say something before things spiral out of control – the sooner, the better.
Physical Consequences of Drug Abuse
One of the most immediate and visible consequences of drug abuse is the toll it takes on the body. Depending on the drug, users may experience a range of physical symptoms, including:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Tremors or seizures
- Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat
- Respiratory problems
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
- Bloodborne diseases like HIV and hepatitis C
In some cases, drug abuse can even be fatal. Overdose is a risk associated with many drugs, including opioids, cocaine, and methamphetamine. An overdose can cause seizures, respiratory failure, and coma, and can be life-threatening without immediate medical attention.
Mental Health Consequences of Drug Abuse
Drug abuse can also have serious consequences for mental health. Many drugs are known to cause or exacerbate mental health problems, including:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Mood swings
Continued drug use can also lead to addiction, a chronic disease that affects the brain and behavior. Addiction can have a range of negative consequences, including:
- Impaired judgment and decision-making
- Difficulty maintaining relationships
- Problems at work or school
- Legal trouble
- Financial troubles
- Social isolation
Social Consequences of Drug Abuse
Drug abuse doesn't just affect the individual user; it can also have a ripple effect on families, friends, and communities. Some of the social consequences of drug abuse include:
- Strained relationships with loved ones
- Financial strain on families
- Increased risk of domestic violence
- Increased risk of child abuse or neglect
- Increased risk of accidents or injuries
- Increased crime rates in communities
The Role of Peer Pressure in Drug Use Initiation and Addiction
Peer pressure is a common factor that can lead to drug use initiation and addiction. Adolescents, in particular, are more likely to experiment with drugs when they feel pressured by their peers or want to fit in with a certain social group. In some cases, individuals may continue using drugs to maintain their social status or avoid being ostracized by their peers.
Peer pressure can also contribute to addiction by making it difficult for individuals to quit using drugs. When drug use becomes normalized within a social group, it can be challenging for individuals to break away from that behavior and seek help. Additionally, those who struggle with addiction may feel ashamed or embarrassed about their drug use, which can further isolate them from their peers and make it harder for them to get the support they need.
Parents and educators play an important role in preventing drug use initiation among young people. By educating adolescents about the risks associated with drug use and providing them with alternative ways to cope with peer pressure, parents and educators can help reduce the likelihood of drug experimentation and addiction. It's also important for adults to model healthy behaviors themselves and provide a supportive environment where young people feel comfortable discussing difficult topics like drug use.
Prevalence of Prescription Drug Abuse Among Young Adults
Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem among young adults. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription drugs are the third most commonly abused substance among people aged 14 and older, after alcohol and marijuana. In particular, opioids and benzodiazepines are frequently misused by young adults.
One reason for the prevalence of prescription drug abuse among young adults is easy access. Many young people obtain prescription drugs from friends or family members who have legitimate prescriptions. Others may turn to illegal sources, such as buying pills from dealers or online pharmacies.
Misuse of prescription drugs can have serious consequences. Opioid abuse, in particular, can lead to addiction and overdose. In fact, nearly 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It's important for healthcare providers and parents to educate young people about the risks associated with prescription drug misuse and to ensure that any medications in the home are stored securely. Additionally, states have implemented prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) which allow healthcare providers to check a patient's history of controlled substance prescriptions before prescribing new medication. These programs can help prevent overprescribing and limit opportunities for diversion of prescription drugs into illicit markets.
Talking about Addiction
It is not easy to discuss this with someone who is in denial about the nature of their problem. Early on, it can be easy for the person living in addiction to blame little bumps in the road that are clearly due to addiction on other people. The problems at work, for example, may be blamed on the boss. Financial problems may be blamed on the high cost of rent, and relationship issues may be blamed on the people at home.
Additionally, when someone is “called out” about the addiction disorder, they may respond by attempting to hide the problem: hiding their use of drugs and alcohol, lying about whether or not they are under the influence, or lying about how much they have used. Shame and stigma can compound the issue, and make it harder for loved ones to identify the continued degradation of their lives until it has become an overwhelming obstacle.
When informal conversation becomes difficult, it can be helpful to stage a more formal intervention with the goal of helping the individual to connect with needed treatment. The key components of an intervention include:
- Highlighting the fact that addiction is a medical disorder and not a moral failure or character flaw
- Identifying the ways that addiction has altered not only the individual’s life but also the lives of family members
- Offering the opportunity for the individual to start treatment immediately after the intervention
- Recognizing the ways that the family may have enabled addiction behavior and asserting that those choices will stop whether or not the person agrees to get help
- Making it clear that the person will be supported throughout recovery
The offer of immediate treatment is a primary component of the addiction intervention. Simply identifying the problem of addiction and asking the person to stop using drugs and alcohol is not enough. Most people living in addiction will agree that it is a problem but say they can stop and would like the opportunity to do so on their own without treatment. If it were that easy to just stop, they likely would have a long time ago before the consequences began piling up.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug abuse, it's important to seek help. There are a range of treatment options available, including:
- Inpatient or outpatient rehab programs
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Counseling or therapy
- Support groups like Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery
If you're not sure where to turn, your primary care doctor can be a great resource for finding treatment options in your area.
Drug abuse is a serious problem that can have far-reaching consequences for individuals and society as a whole. By understanding the risks associated with drug use, we can take steps to prevent addiction and help those who are struggling with drug abuse to get the help they need. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug abuse, don't hesitate to reach out for help. With the right treatment and support, recovery is possible.
Does someone you love need you to stand up and offer them the support they need to get treatment for addiction?