Experiencing substance abuse can cause individuals to struggle with the wild swings that can happen in both their mood and physical symptoms. It is a constant tug-of-war between intense highs and lows, from uncomfortable cravings to miserable withdrawals. 

Substances are not simply ingested and flushed out. They rewire the brain and body, leaving undesirable changes in their wake. While some of these changes are temporary and can be overcome, many other changes are more severe and long-lasting. Early intervention with a trusted and capable clinician can help mitigate the effect of these symptoms.

Short-Term Effects

Many short-term effects of substance use affect the mental and social dimensions of health. For example, due to changes in cognition and judgment, it can be difficult to keep up with previous obligations and commitments pertaining to work and relationships. Whether this leads to repercussions in the workplace or arguments and other issues with romantic partners and family members, drugs and alcohol can create issues and consequences due to the impairment caused by these substances while one is under the influence. 

Additionally, having to satisfy cravings and enduring withdrawals can be all-consuming in terms of time, money, and attention. Cravings are often paired with extremely uncomfortable physical and emotional sensations. 

Long-Term Effects

When discussing long-term effects, individuals might think that these more permanent effects are associated with sustained substance use over the course of months or years. While that is the case for some substances, with others one-time use can be enough to serve as the catalyst for some detrimental mental and physical transformations.


One such example of a quick and unexpected incident is when someone experiences an overdose. Overdoses can occur when someone’s tolerance for that substance does not match what they are taking in. This can happen to someone who has never tried that drug before and does not know how much to take. Alternatively, if that individual is around people who have developed a tolerance and tries to match their level of intake, that person could suffer ill effects while the others are fine. 

Overdoses can also happen on the other end of the spectrum, with a person who is addicted to a substance and has been developing a greater and greater tolerance. In order to feel the desired effects of the drug, they may have to increase the amount they take. Eventually, that amount will be more than the body can handle, which leads to an overdose. If an overdose is not treated quickly and correctly, it can rapidly lead to death.


Another severe complication with substance use that can occur regardless of the time spent using the drug is severe injury, disability, or death from a car accident. When under the influence of drugs or alcohol, an individual’s reaction time is greatly slowed, and judgment and impulse control are significantly impaired. This can lead to the inability to safely navigate even the most routine aspects of driving. It also increases the likelihood of risky behavior, like speeding, weaving between lanes, or running red lights. 

The impact of a car accident happens in a split second, and it does not matter whether the driver has been struggling with substance abuse for decades or if they only decided today to try drugs or alcohol. Additionally, this situation is not only dangerous for that individual, but it poses an imminent risk to everybody else in their proximity.

Spread of Disease

While car accidents are one way that the health effects of addiction spread beyond the individual, there are several other ways that one person’s drug and alcohol use puts others at risk. One such way is the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C. This can be spread when needles are reused between multiple people, and it can be further spread through sexual contact. 

When under the influence, someone’s inhibitions are lowered, and just as they are more likely to engage in more risky impulses while driving, they may also not exercise caution during intercourse and forego using protection. This can have consequences for everyone involved.

Sustained substance use also puts an individual at risk for chronic illnesses like lung and heart disease, cancer, and strokes. Certain substances can also damage nerves and contribute to tooth decay.

Stopping It Before It Starts

While these health effects are a reality, they are not destiny. Early intervention can help prevent complications down the road. If an individual is concerned about her loved one’s substance abuse and needs help starting that conversation, working with a licensed clinician to plan and execute an intervention can be the first step toward better health and wellbeing.

If you are noticing substance use behavior in yourself or a loved one, it is best to address it as soon as possible. As drug or alcohol use transitions into addiction, the risk of irreversible negative health outcomes and even death increases. It can be intimidating to confront your loved one about making a change, but you are not alone. Family-Centered Services has a team of licensed clinicians who have been there and who know the evidence behind addiction treatment and recovery. We offer comprehensive services to both the individual and family throughout the process, including intervention education and preparation, individual and family therapy, a Family Recovery Program, case management, and sober accountability through non-invasive, at-home testing. Your loved one’s mental and physical well-being is important to us, and we prioritize repairing the family bonds that are strained by addiction. Reach out today at (509) 991-5822 to learn more.

Originally posted 2022-08-05 07:00:00.