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35 million Americans had substance use disorders in 2019. As common as addiction is, only 10% of addicts receive treatment. Addiction is a disease that can impact anyone, regardless of your family history, upbringing, or career path. Plenty of people seem to have everything together, but behind the mask, they hide their battle with addiction.

Addiction can happen to anyone with little warning. What can start as just trying something new with a friend or a prescription from a doctor can quickly become an addiction.

The most often abused drugs in the United States are alcohol, opiates, stimulants such as methamphetamines and cocaine, and benzodiazepines. The effects vary from drug to drug, each with its dangers, effects, and withdrawal symptoms.

Dependence on a substance can happen quickly, leading the user down a dangerous path of addiction where the user cannot function normally without it. For some users, withdrawals can be so severe that they have deadly consequences.

Risks Associated With Being High on Drugs

An incredible number of different health risks are taken on when someone starts getting high on drugs. Depending on the types of substances they are using to get high, the risks and effects can be relatively mild or potentially devastating and even deadly. Here, we cover some of the risks of different drugs.

Alcohol

Alcohol can cause serious problems in the short-term and the long term. In the short term, the risks of alcohol abuse include slurred speech, loss of coordination, inability to function in a socially acceptable way, and loss of bladder and bowel control. There is also a considerable difficulty in the alcoholic’s brain to make and retain memories.

In the long-term, alcohol abuse can cause various cancers, particularly in those that are high-functioning and maintain a heavy drinking habit for many years. Cases like these are also known for presenting with liver conditions and diseases. 

“Wet Brain” is a very high-risk condition for alcohol abusers. Wet Brain is where the brain sustains memory loss and eventually suffers irreversible brain damage due to years of consistent abuse.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines, or “benzos,” are a class of drugs often used to manage anxiety and panic disorders. One of the most common benzodiazepines is alprazolam, which goes by the brand name Xanax. 

The side effects of this type of drug can be terrible. It can cause serious behavioral changes as well as changes in the sex drive. Benzos can often give a strong feeling of euphoria, but they can just as easily cause dramatic mood swings and irritability. 

Also impacted are the cognitive functions like memory, attention, and inhibition. The physical risks include dizziness, dry mouth, trouble maintaining an erection, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, slurred speech, and even seizures.

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Opiates

Opiates are a very large class of drugs derived from the opium poppy or synthetic variants. Opiates are central nervous system depressants as well as respiratory depressants. This means they slow down the user’s body and mind. Depending on how they are taken, opiates can have many different risks.

When snorted, there is a high risk of overdose since the drug enters the system extremely quickly, and if the user is not used to it, their body may not be able to handle it. Another risk of snorting opiates is the risk of chronic infections to the nasal and sinus tissues, which can lead to a large-scale breakdown of the tissue in necrosis.

Injecting is another popular method for taking opiates and comes with risks. Most significant are the risks from the actual injection, such as infection and vein damage. This is another method most at risk for an overdose since the drug is put directly into the bloodstream. Other risks of injection include the possibility of blood-borne pathogens from sharing used needles.

Stimulants

Stimulants like amphetamines are often prescribed to those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, to help mitigate the symptoms of the illness and achieve focus and concentration. However, they are also frequently abused by those with prescriptions and those without.

The most significant risks from taking stimulants come from altering the user’s brain chemistry, leading to chemical dependence. Since most stimulants act on neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, using them for long periods then stopping can lead to serious health problems. 

These problems can include heartbeat irregularities, impotence, weight loss, high blood pressure, difficulty reaching orgasm, nausea and vomiting, muscle tremors, agitation, anxiety, headache, and other symptoms.

Additionally, since the dopamine receptors can become burnt out, those who abuse stimulants may discover that when they stop using them, they have difficulty finding pleasure in things they once loved. Again, this is due to the chemical dependency they develop and the devastating effect on the overall health of the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.

Behavioral Signs That Someone is Addicted to Being High on Drugs

If you suspect that a friend or loved one is addicted to drugs, there are some warning signs you can watch out for to help confirm your suspicions:

  • Changes in behavior such as increased amounts of alone time
  • Difficulties in school, disinterest in activities
  • Changes in physical appearance, including being dirty or wearing unwashed clothes
  • Changes in relationships
  • Poor skin tone, bloodshot eyes, and looking more tired and run down than normal
  • Differences in spending habits
  • Asking friends or family to borrow money
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss
  • Spending more money than usual
  • Neglecting financial responsibilities
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Treatment Options if You are Addicted to Being High on Drugs

If someone that you are close to may be addicted to being high on drugs, the best thing you can do for them is to reach out to them and let them know that they don’t have to do it alone. Working with a professional and experienced treatment center can benefit from customized treatment plans promoting life-long recovery.

If you or a loved one is addicted to drugs, the time to get help is now, before it’s too late. For more information about our Austin and Dallas mental health services and addiction treatment, reach out to a friendly enrollment advisor today to get any questions about treatment options answered and be on your way to a better, more fulfilling tomorrow right away.

Sources:

Infinite Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial guidelines and medical review policy.

  1. Waller RC, Clark KJ, Woodruff A, Glossa J, Ostrovsky A. Guide for Future Directions for the Addiction and OUD Treatment Ecosystem. NAM Perspect. 2021;2021:10.3147/202104b. doi:10.3147/202104b
  2. Administration (US) SA and MHS, General (US) O of the S. EARLY INTERVENTION, TREATMENT, AND MANAGEMENT OF SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS. US Department of Health and Human Services; 2016. Accessed June 27, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424859/
  3. Drillinger M. What is Methamphetamine? WebMD. Accessed June 27, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/connect-to-care/addiction-treatment-recovery/what-is-methamphetamine
Amanda Stevens, BS

Medical Content Writer

Amanda Stevens, BS

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. She writes for popular treatment centers such as Ocean Recovery, Ascendant NY, The Heights Treatment, Epiphany Wellness, New Waters Recovery and adolescent mental health treatment center BasePoint Academy. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being the a mother of a beautiful daughter.

Last medically reviewed June 27, 2022

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