How Long is Long-Term Drug Use? | Substance Abuse Information

How Long is Long-Term Drug Use?

long term addiction

Casual or excessive drug or alcohol use can be detrimental to mental, physical, and behavioral health. In the short-term, drug misuse and abuse can cause users to experience a number of issues including a lapse in memory, impaired judgment, poor mental state, and risk of overall health and safety. While the concerns and risks of short-term drug use are alarming, understanding the full impact of drug addiction is nothing short of chilling. Long-term effects can include extensive damage to vital systems and functions, disabilities, and even death. Even with these inherent risks, drug abuse and addiction continue to plague many Coloradans. But how long is long-term drug use? Can lifelong damage result from addiction?

If you or someone you love is battling an ongoing addiction, recovery options that address more than just substance abuse may be needed. Most importantly, having access to treatment programs may ultimately impact long-term success rates. Learn more below about determining how long is long-term drug use.

For 24/7 addiction services and program information through AspenRidge, contact us directly at 855-281-5588

Drug Use Nationwide

long term drug useAccording to, drug abuse is one of the leading causes of death nationwide. Colorado ranked 32nd in the nation in 2015 for its rate of total drug overdose deaths according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

People who have never experienced addiction may often wonder why someone would let recreational use progress to full-blown addiction.  The onset of addiction is an extremely complex process. Every addiction is unique and is dependent on several factors. Distressed people may seek drugs to alleviate symptoms caused by mental health issues, trauma, PTSD, and more. According to NIDA, mental health concerns may contribute to about 40 to 60 percent of a person’s risk of addiction. The symptoms of a mental health disorder generally worsen when substances are abused, and psychological disorders are often compounded with long-term drug use.

Others may begin their addiction with prescription medications such as opioids for pain management and fall into a cycle of misuse due to the addictive nature of painkillers.

Regardless of how drug addiction has a lasting impact. Consider these facts from the National Institutes of Health:

  • Drug addiction causes more deaths than any other preventable problem.
  • About 25 percent of all deaths in America are related to drug, alcohol, or tobacco abuse.
  • Drug abuse can lead to crime and jail time.

Defining long-term concerns for ongoing drug use can vary in severity depending on the type of substance used. While all substances carry great risks, some drugs such as opioids, cocaine, and methamphetamine can cause damage more quickly and on a greater scale.

If a person is dealing with addiction or believes a loved one may suffer from this condition, it is important to get help as soon as possible to prevent serious long-term damage and effects. Rehabilitation programs in Colorado offered through AspenRidge Recovery can provide supportive services to address substance abuse and psychological disorders.

Short-Term and Long-Term drug use

Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite negative consequences. It is recognized as a brain disease because drugs change the physical and chemical structure of the brain and affect normal functions. These brain changes can be long-lasting and can lead to harmful behaviors. The consequences can potentially last a lifetime if left untreated.

While short-term and long-term effects can appear to have some overlap, there are still distinctive markers that may answer the question: how long is long-term drug use? For example, building up a tolerance for a particular substance is often considered a short-term effect. However, an ongoing tolerance and a necessity to use more in order to receive the same desired result may lead to permanent, long-term issues.

People who suffer from addiction long-term often have one or more accompanying medical issues, which may include:

  • Lung or cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Mental disorders
  • Hepatitis B and C

Some drugs are neurotoxins that may damage or destroy nerve cells either in the brain or the peripheral nervous system.

Answering the question of “how long is long-term drug use” is not easy. There isn’t any conclusive data that would suggest when short-term issues stop and long-term issues begin. The disease of addiction is progressive, and long-term drug effects cause significant damage throughout the body.

Diseases from Drug Use and Addiction

how long is long term drug useThose that abuse or become addicted to prescription medications or illicit drugs carry a higher risk of contracting infectious diseases. This is due to short-term effects that impair judgment and increase the likelihood of a user partaking in risky sexual behaviors. Individuals who struggle with addictive substances for a prolonged period of time may also suffer physical issues like organ damage and lowered immune response.

Smoking certain drugs like methamphetamine or crack cocaine can ]cause lung infections and diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis, and lung cancer. Heroin users may lack access to clean needles and by sharing unclean paraphernalia, increase their risk of HIV infection along with hepatitis B and C.

Long-Term Drug Use: Organ Damage

Those that suffering from the disease of addiction may face extensive organ damage. Because of long-term substance abuse, the body eventually becomes ill-equipped to function properly without getting high. Some organs that may be damaged during ongoing drug use include:

  • Liver
  • Heart
  • Digestive System
  • Lungs

The liver is one of the primary organs that metabolize substances like alcohol, meth, or opiates, including prescription painkillers. Although the liver can regrow tissue, consistent abuse causes lasting damage long-term which can lead to jaundice, fatty liver, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.

Substances like cocaine and other stimulants can cause drastic or extreme changes in blood pressure and alter oxygen absorption rates in the blood, which can damage arteries and veins, as well as the heart. Stimulants can also trigger heart attacks and strokes.

Indicators That it’s Time to Seek Help

How do you know when it is time to seek professional help for your long-term drug use? The following are indicators that you need help with your drug addiction:

  • Have you driven a vehicle while under the influence of drugs?
  • Is your drug use having harmful effects on your physical health?
  • Have friends, family members, or colleagues asked you to get help with your drug problem?
  • Do you experience headaches, cramps, irritability, nausea, paranoia, depression, or other problems shortly after your last drug use?
  • Has your drug use caused legal problems like DUI arrests, charges of theft?
  • Have you been incarcerated, on probation, parole, or house arrest?
  • Have you caused physical harm to yourself or others while under the influence of drugs?
  • Have you lost your job, gotten kicked out of school, or been asked to leave your residence because of drug use?
  • Have you tried unsuccessfully to quit or cut back on your drug use?
  • Have you lied, cheated, stolen, or engaged in other destructive habits to acquire drugs or to cover up the extent of your drug use?
  • Do you feel powerless to change your drug use?
  • Has your habit taken over all aspects of your physical, social, and emotional life?

Treatment Programs: Recover from the Long-Term Effects of Addiction

drug use long termGaining the ability to stop abusing drugs is just one part of the recovery process. When people enter treatment for a substance use disorder, addiction has often taken over their lives. Abusing drugs can quickly take charge and replace all of the things that were once enjoyable. Drug addiction can disrupt how individuals function in their family lives, at work, and in their community.

The best treatment options and programs in Colorado for substance abuse incorporate a variety of rehabilitative services and address underlying causes for substance dependency, such as mental health disorders. AspenRidge Recovery offers supportive services from licensed counselors and therapists that are trained and certified in treating a variety of substance addictions.

Contact us today for more information on specific programs and services that may help you or someone you love overcome the struggle of addiction. Our admissions coordinators are here to support you in your next steps to recovery. Give us a call with questions on receiving treatment (855) 281-5588

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